Lowering the voting age to 16

Could San Francisco influence region with new standard?

San Francisco County approved Proposition G to be included on November’s ballot. It proposes to lower the voting age to 16. Vote16SF, a subgroup of Vote16USA, is leading a leading advocate for this bill,  which would allow teenagers 16 years and older to vote for decisions that affect their lives on a local level by accepting their votes in municipal elections. 

“It is absurd that 16- and 17-year-olds can’t vote,” Miramonte senior Jack Carlson said, “yet research shows that they have the necessary civic knowledge and interest to vote. It’s unfair to deprive them from voting, given that they are just as much affected by politics.”

The minimum age for voting in federal elections and in most state and local elections is 18.

“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,” said Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco’s member of Congress and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said on NBC News. 

Not everyone is enamored of the idea.

“Personally, I wouldn’t see myself as ready to vote or even knowledgeable enough to vote,” Miramonte freshman Oliver Sherwood said. “I would like to educate myself a bit more before I can vote.” 

Approving Prop. Gwould make San Francisco the first major city in the United States to lower its local voting age. 

“Sixteen and 17-year-olds are ready, excited and committed to voting,” Vote16SF advocate Ariana Arana said. “Youth are ready to make their voices heard and to have control over choices that will affect them, their communities and their futures.”

Vote16USA is an organization focused on lowering the voting age all over the country. The organization has created several branches, including one in San Francisco (Vote16SF), to approach the issue on a local level.

San Francisco’s Prop. G states, “The proposal would amend the Charter’s definition of ‘voter,’ for the purpose of municipal elections, to be ‘any person who is at least 16 years old, meets all the qualifications for voter registration in accordance with state law other than those provisions that address age, and is registered to vote with the Department of Elections.’”

Those against the proposition argue that teenagers who are not considered adults yet are not informed or experienced enough to make important decisions for our cities.

“Looking back at when I was 16, I wouldn’t have given myself the right vote,” Miramonte U.S. Government and Economics teacher Scott Biezad said. “I’m not sure my 18-year-old self should have been voting either, and I was a very typical teenager. Eighteen has seemed to work for the past 49 years, so I’m fine with it being 18.”

Back in 2016, Vote16SF placed Proposition F, an ordinance to lower the voting age in San Francisco County, on local elections ballots but lost the vote 48 percent to 52 percent. 

Rep. Grace Meng from New York, in 2018, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts, in 2019, proposed to change the federal voting age to 16. However, when the 2019 attempt reached the House of Representatives, it only received 126 votes out of 435, missing the required minimum of votes to begin the process of amending the U.S. Constitution to allow 16-year-olds to vote. 

Neither of this year’s presidential candidates,Donald Trump or Joe Biden, has  mentioned or acknowledged the idea of lowering the voting age. 

If San Francisco passes Prop. G and lowers its voting age, its example  could influence other nearby jurisdictions such as Contra Costa County to follow its lead.