This fall, San Francisco will be voting on a law which would allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in local elections. This proposition seeks to increase voter turnout for younger voters—who have historically been the age group least likely to vote—and to allow politically active younger people to make their voice heard on the ballot. Currently, San Luis Obispo has not reported any plans to adopt a similar proposition, but if San Francisco’s vote succeeds it is not out of the realm of possibility that other cities will follow.
One controversial issue is whether 16-year olds were ready to vote. Weighing in on this issue, senior Korbyn Civellio said she “[thinks] the voting age should be lowered, especially since now I’ve seen a lot more high schoolers informing themselves about the election and taking those extra steps to be more knowledgeable on the subject.” Similarly, senior Aubrey Uzonyi added that although “not every 16 year old knows what’s going on with politics,” she does know that “most people are very into politics and would like to vote for change.” Junior Eli Bell, though, disagreed, saying that he “[doesn’t] believe 16 year olds should be able to vote on anything of actual significance” because “most of us aren’t affected by the laws we would be voting on.” However, Bell added that he would take the opportunity to vote if it were offered to him.
All three voiced that they also made an effort to pay attention to politics, with Uzunyi mentioning that she primarily paid attention to them “on a national level just because it’s on the news and social media more often than local [politics].” None of the three said that they paid much attention to local politics. Furthermore, all three said that they were planning to vote when they turn 18.
One of the main effects that this law would attempt to have is to increase voter turnout among young citizens, who have historically had the lowest voter turnout of all age groups. In the 2016 election, approximately just 47 % of this group voted compared to the national average of about 61%. Ms. Van Zee claimed that this law would, by involving and educating students about local politics and the political process, make them“own their political efficacy…, [which] means, ‘how much do you believe your vote matters?’…if you believe it because you see it on a local level, you’re just going to raise the political efficacy overall…if young people believe that their voice matters in the system, that’s then going to play out to the federal level.”
Van Zee also added that because the political climate of San Luis Obispo is significantly different from San Francisco’s, meaning that students should not expect a similar law to come up in our county any time soon.