SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, introduced an amendment to the state constitution today that would lower the voting age from 18 to 17 in California. Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 10 is co-authored by a bipartisan group of California Millennial Caucus members.
“Our country was founded on resisting taxation without representation, and yet every election cycle, teenagers face this centuries-old disenfranchisement,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “Young people are our future. Lowering the voting age will help give them a voice in the democratic process and instill a lifelong habit of voting.”
Young voters (ages 18-24 years old) in California have the lowest turnout rate of any age demographic, leaving them drastically underrepresented. In the 2014 general election for instance, only 8.2% of California’s eligible youth voted. This is often because many 18 year olds are usually in a time of transition –graduating from high school, going to college, or getting a job. Lowering the voting age to 17 will catch youth at a time when they are still connected to their school, their home, and their community.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport. And yet, half of our high school seniors are left sitting on the sidelines, learning about government in theory, but unable to cast that crucial first vote in their hometown, where civic habits are built,” said State Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments and principal co-author of ACA 10.
Research has shown that the earlier in life one votes, the more likely they are to form a lifelong habit of voting. As a result, there has been a nationwide movement to engage youth earlier in the electoral process.
Currently, eleven states allow 16 year olds to preregister to vote, including California. Twenty two states and the District of Columbia permit 17 year olds to vote in the primary elections or caucuses if the voter will turn 18 before the general election.
Two localities–Takoma Park and Hyattsville, Maryland–have gone even further, and allow 16 year olds to vote in their municipal elections. Takoma Park held its first elections with 16 year olds voting in 2013 and Hyattsville had its first in 2015.
“Studies indicate that voting is habit forming and once a person votes, he or she is more likely to vote again. ACA 10 presents a crucial opportunity to build the voting habit,” said Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo), principal co-author of ACA 10. “If someone can be truly engaged in the voting process through their high school civics class, then we have the opportunity to get more students to cast ballots and start what we hope would be a lifelong habit of civic engagement.”
As a constitutional amendment, ACA 10 requires a two-third vote of both houses of the state legislature and the approval of voters in order to take effect.