Californians are voting on a number of propositions that deal with a wide variety of issues this election season. Here’s a closer look at Proposition 18, which deals with allowing some 17-year-olds to vote. This is a summary of information taken from the official California voters guide and the website Ballotpedia.
Proposition 18: Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections if They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and be Otherwise Eligible to Vote. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.
Proposition 18 would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primary elections and special elections.
Prop 18 was approved as Assembly Concurrent Resolution 4 (ACA 4) during the 2019-2020 legislative session. The California State Senate voted 31 to 7 to pass ACA 4 on June 25, 2020. Senate Democrats, along with two Senate Republicans, supported ACA 4. The California State Assembly voted 56 to 13 to pass ACA 4 on June 26, 2020. Of those who supported ACA 4, 55 were Democrats and one was a Republican. Opponents included one Democrat and 12 Republicans.
As of June 2020, 18 states, along with Washington, D.C., allowed 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the general election to vote in primary elections.
Arguments in Favor
Prop 18 will allow those who will be 18 years of age by the time of the general election to participate in the primary election of that year if they are 17 at the time of the primary. This important election reform will not only allow first-time voters to participate in the full election cycle, but also has the potential to boost youth participation in our elections.
We need youth voices to be represented at the ballot box. Allowing some 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if, and only if, they will be 18 by the time of the general election is a simple way to amplify the voices of young voters throughout California and will lead to a more inclusive election process for our state overall.
California is behind the curve when it comes to this issue. Nearly half of states in the U.S. already allow 17-year-olds to participate in primaries and caucuses. If an individual plans to participate in the general election as a first-time voter, it is only reasonable that they be afforded the opportunity to shape the choices that appear on the general election ballot by participating in the primary. Prop 18 links this 17-year-old participation to the age of majority by requiring that the individual be 18 by the time of the general election.
Youth are extremely underrepresented in our electoral process despite the fact that they are heavily impacted by the policies created by those elected.
Prop 18 is an opportunity to empower California’s youngest voters and encourage them to become life-long participants in the most fundamental act of democracy. Please support Proposition 18.
A 17-year-old is not a legal adult. Both the federal and California governments have set the age of legal responsibility at 18. In California, an individual even one day younger than 18 may not enter into a legal contract, or even use a tanning salon. Seventeen-year-olds cannot even participate in a school field trip without a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian.
California law puts extra rules and restrictions on drivers licenses of l6- and 17-year-olds because of concerns about maturity and judgment. The license restrictions disappear exactly on the 18th birthday, not before.
California’s primary ballot often includes school tax and bond measures for voter approval. Unlike adult voters, 17-year-olds who are still in high school are likely to hear only one side of these issues.
If 17-year-olds are allowed to vote in primary and special elections, perhaps even filling out a mail-in ballot right in the classroom, these students could provide the margin to approve new debt and taxes that will greatly burden their parents and all taxpayers.
Voting is a serious responsibility. In California elections, voters decide who will hold the power to make and enforce laws, whether to approve new debt that taxpayers will have to pay, whether to raise taxes, and many other complex issues.
Groups supporting Prop 18 include:
• California Democratic Party
• Monterey County Board of Supervisors
• ACLU of Southern California
• San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board
• Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
• The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board
Top donors to “Yes on 18”:
• Committee to Innovate for California’s Future, Evan Low Ballot Measure Committee ($100,000)
• Kevin Mullin for Assembly 2020 ($50,000)
• California Nurses Association PAC ($30,000)
• SEIU-UHW West ($30,000)
• Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Political Action Fund ($30,000)
Groups opposed to Prop 18 include:
• The Orange County Register Editorial Board
• Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Board
Top donors to “No on 18”:
• None reported