Capitol Alert

Should 16-year-olds vote? California puts question on hold

California youth, allies rally for 16-year-old voting rights

Advocates trumpet letting 16-and-17-year-olds vote in school board elections during a Feb. 11, 2016 rally in Sacramento. The bill died in committee, but a new measure would allow 17-year-olds to vote in all state elections.
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Advocates trumpet letting 16-and-17-year-olds vote in school board elections during a Feb. 11, 2016 rally in Sacramento. The bill died in committee, but a new measure would allow 17-year-olds to vote in all state elections.

A constitutional amendment to let California 16-year-olds vote in school board elections has halted for the year.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, wants to extend the franchise to adolescents voting in school and community college board elections, saying it would instill a civic culture that could help reverse California's dwindling voter participation.

But Assembly Constitutional Amendment 7, which would go before voters if it garnered the bipartisan two-thirds vote needed to pass the Legislature, will go no further this legislative session.

The idea inspired heated debate, Gonzalez said, so she wants to air different sides of the issue at some upcoming informational hearings. Her goal remains to get the amendment on the 2018 ballot, which should be considerably lighter than a November 2016 ballot already sagging under the weight of 17 different initiatives.

“It’s a bigger issue that people need to understand and get information on,” Gonzalez said. “You talk to folks and it’s either ‘of course’ or ‘hell no’ ... if we can soften up that kind of ‘hell no’ attitude, this is a long-term journey.”

A spokesman for Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, who heads the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, said lowering the voting age would be among the likely topics discussed at upcoming informational hearings on voter participation. Those hearings will occur after the Legislature adjourns at the end of August.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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