SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), announced today that his proposal to amend the state constitution to lower the voting age from 18 to 17 in California has passed the Assembly Elections Committee. Teens Maya Bodnick and Aarushi Wadhwa testified in support of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10, which is co-authored by a bipartisan group of millennial caucus members.
“We need bold ideas to reinvigorate participation in the democratic process,” said Assemblymember Low. “Lowering the voting age will help ensure the next generation is engaged and empowered to hold their representatives accountable.”
Young voters (ages 18-24 years old) in California have the lowest turnout rate of any age demographic, leaving them drastically underrepresented. In the 2014 general election for instance, only 8.2% of California's eligible youth voted. This is often because many 18 year olds are usually in a time of transition –graduating from high school, going to college, or getting a job. Lowering the voting age to 17 will catch youth at a time when they are still connected to their school, their home, and their community.
Research has shown that the earlier in life one votes, the more likely they are to form a lifelong habit of voting. As a result, there has been a nationwide movement to engage youth earlier in the electoral process.
Currently, eleven states allow 16 year olds to preregister to vote, including California. Twenty two states and the District of Columbia permit 17 year olds to vote in the primary elections or caucuses if the voter will turn 18 before the general election.
Two localities–Takoma Park and Hyattsville, Maryland–have gone even further, and allow 16 year olds to vote in their municipal elections. Takoma Park held its first elections with 16 year olds voting in 2013 and Hyattsville had its first in 2015.
In addition to lowering the voting age, Assemblymember Low authored AB 189 to require a service learning component in California’s high school curriculum, which would teach high school students about civic responsibility. Like community service, students in service learning courses serve in their communities while incorporating the experiences directly in their school work. The bill is in Appropriations.
ACA 10 now heads to Assembly Appropriations. As a constitutional amendment, the measure requires a two-third vote of both houses of the state legislature and the approval of voters in order to take effect.