California youth, allies rally for 16-year-old voting rights
A state lawmaker from the Silicon Valley has reintroduced a constitutional amendment that would lower the California voting age to 17, betting that a larger Democratic majority in the Legislature this year will help his proposal reach the ballot.
An amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of the state Assembly and Senate, and the approval of voters. Last year, a similar proposal from Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell failed to reach the necessary margin of 46-24.
This time around, there are more Democrats in the Assembly, Low spokeswoman Maya Polon said, adding that the legislation enjoys bipartisan support.
Low has made voter engagement and access to the polls a top priority.
“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,” Low said in a statement. “Young people are our future, and when we ignore that we do so at our own peril.”
Low cited data from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change’s California Civic Engagement Project, which found just under 31 percent of California’s eligible voters turned out in the November 2014 midterm elections, with youth voter — 18 to 24 — turnout being the lowest at 8.2 percent, or 285,000 of the 3.5 million eligible youth voters.
Turnout improved significantly in November’s midterm election, when 64.5 percent of eligible California voters cast ballots. It was California’s highest turnout in a non-presidential election since 1982, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
California is one of nearly a dozen states that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, automatically adding them to voter rolls on their 18th birthdays.
Low’s proposal also follows other recent efforts by California Democratic leaders to expand voting access, including automatically registering voters when they apply for or renew drivers’ licenses.
“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,” according to a statement from Low’s office.