Teen Voting Proposed

Lauren Holt, Mirada Staff

Supervisor John Avalos of San Francisco’s District 11 proposed a city charter amendment during March to lower the voting age to 16 in local San Francisco elections.

The plan to lower the voting age was initially brought up by the San Francisco Youth Commission, but Avalos has since joined this mission to convince six of the eleven members of the Board of Supervisors.

While it is the first major city to attempt such reforms, San Francisco would not be the first city to enfranchise 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. Maryland’s Takoma Park and Hyattsville have already expanded the vote to teens aged 16 and 17.

Internationally, the voting age was lowered to 16 for Scotland’s September 2014 referendum, in which the Scottish voted for or against independence from Great Britain.

Proponents of the reform suggest that given the other responsibilities placed on teens starting at 16, teens would be able to and should be able to vote as well. “You can drive; you can work; you can pay taxes, and you can be denied the right to vote,” said San Francisco Youth Commissioner Joshua Cardenas “There is a contradiction there. Certainly, they have the knowledge and competence to vote at 16.”

Sophomore Kelsey Fletterick believes that in addition to 16 and 17-year-olds being capable to handle the burden of voting, it would also be beneficial to civic engagement. “Many of my friends and classmates have no interest in elections and politics because they have no say in them,” said Fletterick “If teens were allowed to vote in local elections it might encourage them to become involved with civics and give them practice at voting before they cast their ballots in larger elections.”

Opponents of the proposal fear that while it may be 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds showing up to vote, the teens’ parents opinions may be the driving force behind their votes.

“While I would agree that there are plenty of teens out there with opinions independent of their parents, I think that the majority of teens align their opinions with their parents’ views and cannot be trusted to vote in an educated manner that reflects their true, uninfluenced perspective” said Senior Patrick Shields.

Whether San Francisco actually lowers the voting age remains unseen, but the proposal and decision is sure to spark debate and serve as a model for other cities considering such action in the future.