California may soon allow some 17-year-olds to vote in elections, should Proposition 18, an amendment to the state constitution, be approved at the ballot box in November.
Should the amendment pass, 17-year-olds in the state would be allowed to vote in primary and special elections if they turn 18 before the general election.
According to The Los Angeles Times, similar laws have already been passed in at least a dozen and a half other states, including some reliably red states such as Mississippi and Kentucky. In some other states, however, 17-year-olds who turn 18 by the date of the election can vote in the Democratic primaries but not Republican primaries.
The California GOP has advocated against bringing a similar constitutional amendment to the Golden State, with the party’s website noting that such a measure would mean “high school seniors would be voting for important tax measures only adults would pay.”
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, a state politician from San Francisco who co-authored the amendment, has characterized the proposal as a “modest move to expand voting rights for young people,” reported the Times.
“They’re sitting in a high-school classroom, so there’s an opportunity there for these kids to learn about the mechanics of voting, to learn about the importance of elections in general and the importance of democracy,” Mullin said.
Arguments such as these have also resonated with high-profile Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who presented a similar argument in 2019 in favor of lowering the voting age for federal elections, according to The Hill.
“I myself have always been for lowering the voting age to 16,” said Pelosi at the time. “I think it’s really important to capture kids when they’re in high school, when they’re interested in all of this, when they’re learning about government, to be able to vote.”
San Francisco, the speaker’s home city, will be considering its own voting measure in November, in addition to the state’s 17-year-old voting measure. Should the city-specific measure pass, 16-year-olds would be allowed to vote in local elections.
“Strong civics education and a lower voting age would mutually reinforce each other to increase civic engagement. A lower voting age would make civics education more effective as providing students a way to directly apply what they’re learning in the classroom in their communities would add a crucial level of relevance to civics courses. It would also encourage more schools to implement higher quality civics education programs given its immediate implications on students lives,” reads the Vote 16 SF site.
Voters in San Francisco narrowly rejected a similar measure back in the 2016 election by a 2% margin.
According to The Washington Post, during the primary season, former Vice President Joe Biden did not explicitly give a stance on lowering the voting age. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who once served as the district attorney for San Francisco, didn’t either.
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