Local proposition to lower voting age fails by small margin

Katie Jonckheer, Staff Writer

Voting is an integral part of American society. In the wake of the 2016 election season, many have been analyzing, studying  and dissecting its complexities. Although the presidential election may be taking up media coverage at the moment, it is extremely important to pay attention to the local ballot measures that will affect us most immediately. The proposition that is perhaps most relevant to the Urban student is Prop F, which was designed to expand “voting rights to 16 and 17 year old citizens on local and school board elections,” according to the campaign’s website, vote16sf.org. It is important to note that, as explained by a Huffington Post article detailing the results, “It would not (give) them voting rights for statewide candidates and ballot measures or for federal candidates.” Unfortunately, the proposition did not pass, but only by a narrow margin; 52.1 percent voted no, and 47.9 percent voted yes.

I believe that the Proposition should have passed. It has more significant benefits than downfalls. Several of the arguments against the Proposition center around a lack of education and knowledgeability of youth. Firstly, this can be dismantled by taking into account that those who would be voting in these elections, elections that affect them directly because they are simply those involving the local and school board decisions, are young people who care. Voting is not a requirement, thus only those teenagers who were passionate about politics and educated in the field would be the people taking advantage of this. Madeleine Matz (‘17) works on the San Francisco Youth Commission and has an understanding of the motivations behind the proposition. She said, “There is very little [that is] different about the average 16 and 17 year old brain in terms of logical thinking, but the way that city props could affect them could be very different.” Many may argue that there is no reason to lower the age just two years, but the reality is that those who are 18 are not the ones who would be most significantly affected by the outcomes of these smaller San Francisco elections.

If this proposition had been for less localized voting and more for voting on a nationwide scale, perhaps backlash and skepticality would be more justified, as most teenagers have not fully come to enter and understand how the country works at such a young age. Yet I can definitively say that those teens who have lived in the city for their entire lives and have been schooled in these systems and by these people, understand the city well enough to be able to make decisions about it.

Matz offered interesting insight, stating similar points, and said, “many youth from groups that often have especially depressed voter turnout, such as Black people or Latinos, said that they would be interested in voting.” Although the passing of the Prop would not have guaranteed the votes of these groups, the fact that it even got them interested is important and could lead to beneficial changes in the future.

Getting young people involved and interested in making changes for their community will prepare them to make changes on a greater scale as adults. A small, localized outlet could make all the difference in the future. According to a Vox article entitled The case for allowing 16-year-olds to vote, it is reported that, “The 2014 midterm election saw the lowest turnout rate ever recorded: a mere 19.9 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voted. Even worse, only 46.7 percent of these voters registered.” The participation of the youngest members of the voting population is as crucial as that of the older ones.

“Next steps are unfortunately pretty minimal,” said Matz. “We could try to get it put on the ballot again but that seems pretty unlikely, and even if it happened I’m not sure we could pass it.” However, progress has been made outside of the city: the same Proposition passed in Berkeley under the name Y1. Yet perhaps the mere fact that this Proposition made it to the ballot in the first place is a sign of hope and progress.