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Monday, March 16, 2015

San Francisco Supervisor Wants to Lower Voting Age to 16

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 2:10 PM

District 11 Supervisor John Avalos is taking a step to give teens a little more say in this city. Today, he's proposing to expand the voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds.

Not so surprising, the idea for this charter change was first introduced by a teenager. Joshua Cardenas, a high school senior and a youth commissioner in Avalos' district, brought a six-page report to the Youth Commission in January, complete with extensive scientific and social research on why the voting age should be lowered. 

“Sixteen and seventeen year olds can work without limitations on hours, pay taxes, drive cars, and be tried in adult courts," Cardenas said a statement. Considering the civic responsibilities that accrue at age 16 — and as people who use public services and are affected by government decisions—16-17 year olds deserve a say in how government is run.” 

Cardenas points to many other reasons why teenage voting could help San Francisco — reasons that Supervisor Avalos finds compelling. Voting is habitual, Avalos argues, and getting practice at a young age has huge implications for future civic participation. Studies show that once a person votes, that person is exponentially more likely to continue to vote throughout their life. When the city of Tacoma Park in Maryland allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in local elections in 2013, the teenagers turned out at four times the rate of older voters. If political participation is encouraged at a younger age, the logic goes, then a lifetime of voting will be more strongly solidified.

“Lack of civic participation is a crisis in our country," says Adele Failes-Carpenter, director at the San Francisco Youth Commission. “Allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote will have a lasting, positive impact on political participation, and will increase San Francisco’s voter turnout in both the short- and long-term.”   

Although the grown-ups at Supervisor Avalos' Office and the San Francisco Youth Commission are taking the idea to City Hall, they're making a concerted effort to keep the kids involved, for obvious reasons. Later this afternoon, Avalos and commissioners will hold a rally, after school, of course, followed by a press conferences, detailing the proposed changes in the voting law. 

It's also no accident that the press conference is being held two days before Youth Lobby Day, an annual event on Wednesday when young people can enter City Hall and advocate for causes that interest them. 

"We're hoping that this idea can spread and one day be part of a high school curriculum," says Jeremy Pollock, Legislative Aide to Supervisor Avalos. "But John is trying to let the youth take the lead." 
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