SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), introduced an amendment to the state constitution today that would lower the voting age from 18 to 17 in California.
“Lowering the voting age will give a voice to young people and provide a tool to hold politicians accountable to the issues they care about,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “Young people are our future, and when we ignore that we do so at our own peril.”
Youth voters (ages 18-24 years old) in California have the lowest turnout rate of any age demographic. According to data from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change's California Civic Engagement Project, voter turnout in the 2014 elections was abysmal. Only 30.9% of California's eligible voters turned out to vote in the November 2014 election. Youth voter turnout was the lowest for all age groups in the November 2014 general election. Only 8.2% of California's eligible youth voted. This translates into only 285,000 of 3.5 million eligible youth who cast a ballot.
Currently, eleven states allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote, including California. And 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.
Moreover, 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 November of 2106, voters in the City of Berkeley approved a charter amendment that allowed the City Council to lower the voting age to 16-years old for elections for school boards.
Due to low voter turnout, youth voters are drastically underrepresented. In the November 2014 general election, youth made up only 3.9% of those who voted, but were 14.5% of the eligible voting population.
Strong youth electoral participation is critical to achieving a fully representative democracy.
For most young adults, their first contact with the political process is in their high school government class during their senior year or through volunteering on campaigns for community service credit. Moreover, 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-years old will catch youth at a time when they are still connected to their school, their home, and their community.
By lowering the voting age from 18-years old to 17-years old, ACA 8 will promote youth becoming involved in matters that affect them personally and promote early civic engagement.
ACA 8 requires two-thirds approval of the state legislature and enjoys bipartisan support.