San Francisco could allow teenagers as young as 16 to vote in local elections, NBC News reported Saturday.
Residents will vote on the measure in November. If it passes, San Francisco will become the first major American city to grant 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections.
Advocates in the city say lowering the voting age would instill a lifelong habit of voting and have been pushed such measures since 2016. The first legislation failed with 48 per cent of the vote, however, activists are hoping for success this time around.
On its website, Vote16SF says “lowering the voting age can lead to a long-term increase in voter turnout, bringing more citizens in touch with their government and pushing the government to better serve its people.”
Crystal Chan, an 18-year-old organizer for Vote 16 SF, told NBC News the measure “will help youth of color in San Francisco establish the habit of voting at an earlier age, and really provide them with the support and the resources that they need to continue building on that habit as they grow older.”
Yet there are critics who believe that 16-year-olds are not mature enough to cast ballots.
Nate Hochman, a Republican activist and senior at Colorado College, said he does not support the proposal because young people lack the experience to know “what good governance looks like” in their communities.
“Sixteen-year-olds — they’re sophomores, juniors in high school like they’re deeply impressionable. They’re largely interested in learning what, you know, their friends are doing and appearing to be cool. And they’re not capable of making completely rational decisions about voting,” Hochman said. “When are you an adult? When do we trust you to make your own decisions about who you are in the world and making your own way?”
Last year House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voiced her support for lowering the federal voting age to 16, telling reporters that doing so would be a boon to voter engagement in the U.S.
“I myself have always been for lowering the voting age to 16,” Pelosi said. “I think it’s really important to capture kids when they’re in high school, when they’re interested in all of this, when they’re learning about government, to be able to vote.”