Capitol Alert

Should California lower its voting age to 17? Lawmaker says it would boost turnout

In the perpetual crusade to improve sagging voter participation in California, one lawmaker has a proposal that is sure to be controversial: Allow 17-year-olds to have a say.

Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, on Tuesday introduced a constitutional amendment that would lower California’s voting age from 18 to 17. In a statement, he said ACA 10 would help teenagers develop a propensity for voting by catching more young voters, who have the worst turnout rate of any age group, when they are still at home and connected to their families and communities.

“Young people are our future,” he said. “Lowering the voting age will help give them a voice in the democratic process and instill a lifelong habit of voting.”

Twenty-two other states and the District of Columbia already allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and caucuses if they will turn 18 by the general election, according to Low’s office, but California would be the first to lower the eligibility age for all elections. As of last fall, teenagers can preregister to vote starting at 16. A bill last year to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections died in committee.

Since turnout hit a record low in 2014, the Legislature has a pursued an array of policies aimed at making it easier for Californians to participate in elections, including automatically registering voters through the DMV and authorizing counties to begin conducting elections primarily through mail ballots. The state also recently passed laws allowing for same-day voter registration and counting mail ballots that are postmarked by election day but arrive up to three days late.

Appropriately, the fate of ACA 10 may ultimately rest with voters. If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, it would be placed on the ballot in 2018.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff