House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home turf will decide this fall whether it will allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections.
San Francisco residents rejected a similar measure in 2016, but organizers of the initiative are hoping for success this time around.
“I really think that Vote 16 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,” 18-year-old Crystal Chan, who is part of Vote 16 SF, which pushed for the measure to be on November’s ballot, told NBC News.
If the measure passes, San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections.
Voting at 16 is supported by Pelosi, who represents the city.
“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,” she said in 2019.
One of Vote 16’s leaders said the sooner people begin voting, the better it is for democracy.
“Research is clear on this, that voting is a habit. And 16 is a better time than 18 to establish that habit,” Brandon Klugman, Vote 16’s campaign manager, told NBC.
“Our motivation here first and foremost is to make sure that we put new voters in a position to establish that habit in the first election they’re eligible for, and then to continue participating throughout their lives which is good for democracy on every level,” he said.
But Republican activist Nate Hochman, a college senior, said too few 16-year-olds understand “exactly what good governance looks like.”
“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,” said Hochman, who attends Colorado College.
“And they’re not capable of making completely rational decisions about voting,” he told NBC.
Klugman, however, said that teens should have a voice in decisions that affect them.
“We’ve seen the concrete effects that local policy decisions make on the lives of young people really more clearly than ever as school boards and local officials figure out how they’re gonna reopen schools … how they’re going to make sure that young people have access to remote learning and the achievement gap doesn’t widen,” he said.
Many on Twitter said they think lowering the voting age would be a mistake:
Speaker Pelosi wants voting age reduced to 16. San Fran is moving to do that.
This will turn high schools into polling places run by unionized teachers/ballot harvesters.
— Rowan Scarborough (@RoScarborough) September 13, 2020
The nuts who run our cities, like SF, make the worst days of Rome look like paradise.https://t.co/v8aTGzM3Lf
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) September 12, 2020
Honestly, the voting age should probably be raised to 30, along with the minimum age to join the military.
If you are not competent to give consent to have sex at 16, what makes you competent to vote? Have you seen TikTok? You want these people voting? https://t.co/YskZu4xOMQ
— Jesse Powell (@jespow) September 11, 2020
“I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t arbitrarily lower the voting age just because right now, I believe Democrats think they’ll gain more votes,” Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois said at the time.
“I believe it will institutionalize a Democrat majority here in this House of Representatives.”
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