Most big changes take years–often decades–to gain the necessary support to win over the public and politicians. Since 2005, the San Francisco Youth Commission has been advocating to extend voting rights to those younger than age 18. In May 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors heard dozens of youth testify on a charter amendment to allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections, including School Board candidates.
Even though this SF Charter Amendment failed by only 11,500 votes out of nearly a quarter million votes cast, the arguments expressed continue to be relevant in this debate that is occurring in small towns and states across the US. Also, the SF Youth Commission is gearing up for another try for 2020.
Some historic aspects include:
- First time the SF Board of Supervisors held a joint session with the SF Youth Commission, established over 20 years ago, that initiated this suffrage proposal.
- Nearly 100 statements for #Vote16SF were presented by incredibly diverse supporters offering a range of compelling arguments.
- Even opponents, including the Board of Supervisors President, declared the turnout and testimony won her over.
The marathon hearing on #Vote16SF begins at 3:06. To encourage you to watch, here is a sampling of some of the issues raised that are not verbatim excerpts. Cue the video to the time noted, listen, get inspired and spread the word about this history-in-the-making ballot initiative.
3:18 SF Youth Commission presents key arguments including lowest voter turnout in neighborhoods with the highest number of children and youth
3:22 “Trickle up” youth get their parents to vote
3:26 Board of Education reports on its unanimous vote
4:07 Age is not always the best proxy
4:20 One-third of students attend private school which is why Vote16SF is not limited to Board of Education but includes Mayor, Board of Supervisors
4:30 Simulated exercises and debates that really have no effect on anything
4:31 As a child of an incarcerated adult, my dad doesn’t have the right to vote…I would love to vote on issues that affect my family
4:32 I would like to vote because I’m afraid I might not live long enough to vote when I’m supposed to
4:34 I raised myself but I’m not old enough to vote…We are ready to vote
4:39 Is the extra spending on the ballots worth more than the youth in our community?
4:40 Youth Commission resolutions about police, transit, transitional housing, etc. written by 16 and 17-year-olds…close the knowledge gap
4:42 Two cities have modernized the voting age to 16 [Takoma Park and Hyattsville, Maryland]. There was a lot of opposition, some adults terrified. Now, these communities would never choose to go back. Teenagers take more pride in their city…In both cities, voter turnout among voters under 18 is actually higher than those over 18…we are absolutely a better community for it.
4:46 As a librarian, I have witnessed firsthand teens make positive changes…youth voice is critical to creating relevant services for youth
4:52 As a teacher, we know students are on the frontlines—homelessness, violence, bullied—they need a voice.
4:59 Paradigm shift…growing sentiment we need a healthier democracy
5:00 As an 11-year-old, there are lots of different opinions in middle school. People should be able to vote younger and maybe even younger than 16
5:02 The homeless and teenagers regarded with ‘disgust’ …Vote16SF can break this negative stereotype
5:14 Vote16SF is the solution to voter suppression and voter diversity
5:28 We need the youth because they are the heart and soul of this city
5:30 As community leaders, we need to create the conditions for young to be civically engaged
5:33 I’m part of the one-third of SF immigrant community, I’m the only one in my household who can have a potential vote
5:45 Two years ago I was homeless and now I am in front of you…
5:47 Nearly half of registered voters do not vote…16 is actually the perfect age to begin to vote
5:55 A lot of Latino families who are undocumented are being displaced. If this ballot initiative had been passed, many of their children who were born here could have voted
5:57 My parents do not vote even though they are registered but since I’ve been advocating for so many issues, my mom will be voting for the first time
6:00 Beginning to vote at 16 will make habitual voters
6:17 [President of Board of Supervisors] I was adamantly opposed because when I was 16, you probably wouldn’t have even talked to me. To hear the testimony by each and every one of you…we have tomorrow’s leaders showing up today making compelling arguments based on evidence, numbers, facts, taxes based on what we use to make policy decisions. I cannot see how I cannot support this ballot initiative for all voters to decide.