2016 Election: Expanding Voting Rights to HS Students

You may have missed one decisive victory this election. Voters in Alameda County, California supported expanding voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds in Berkeley School Board elections by a huge 68.5% margin.

This is a significant step that gives actual meaning to “student voice”—the primary stakeholders—regarding school curriculum, policies and funding. Now every future candidate running for the Board of Education will be accountable to those in the classroom, not only the two “Student Directors.”

Here’s an informative and inspiring account by one of the activists behind this ballot question:

In my own high school, young people have led the way to create change, from protesting racial hate crimes to proposing new sexual harassment policy to the Berkeley School Board. My peers inspire me to include more young people into the political conversation.

The San Francisco School Board unanimously supported a similar ballot proposition as Berkeley that also would have lowered the voting age to 16 for other local elected officials, including candidates for SF Mayor and the County Board of Supervisors. This Charter Amendment lost by only 11,500 votes (pending final count by the Board of Elections).

When I phone banked for this proposal, a number of SF voters told me they were overwhelmed by all 25 ballot questions and didn’t have time to study the arguments pro and con. To listen to compelling testimony by dozens of students, here are highlights from the public hearing back in May.

Reactions about this close vote in SF soon…check out previous blog about the leading researcher on “teenage brain” who supports lowering the vote age.

Moving forward, Generation Citizen has launched “Beyond The Ballot 2016” along with a free toolkit.