In the United States, a person must be at least 18 years old before she is allowed to vote, but that may soon change in at least one major US city – San Francisco, one of the most liberal American city.
This November, voters in San Francisco are poised to cast ballots to determine whether 16 and 17 years old should be allowed to vote in local elections. In 2016 a similar effort narrowly failed, but this time community organizers believe the political atmosphere is so different and that the measure will past overwhelmingly.
The measure Vote-16 SF, if passed, would make San Francisco the first major American city to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections. Smaller cities like Takoma Park, Maryland, have allowed people as young as 16 to vote in local elections for years and city officials claimed they have seen increased youth engagement since the implementation of the measure in 2013.
At the federal level, lowering the voting age hasn’t picked up the same traction, but the initiative has some bipartisan support in Congress.
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who has long advocated for the issue, introduced a constitutional amendment in 2018 to lower the voting age nationwide to 16. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., introduced an amendment to HR 1 — the For the People Act — last year to lower the federal voting age to 16. Republican, Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, a member of the Rules Committee, said allowing young people to bite struck a chord with him
“Here’s the point: would policymakers pay more attention to the problems that are being dealt to this segment of the demographic if policymakers were actually answerable to them? I think it is worth having the discussion,” Burgess said in March 2019.
Some people argue that 16-year-olds are not matured or informed enough to cast ballots. They are incapable of making rational decisions about voting. Some Republican activists do not support the initiative, citing questions about whether young people have enough experience in understanding precisely what good governance looks like within their communities.
Those who support such measures hope that the movement will continue to grow at the state and local level and that more municipalities will pass measures allowing young people to vote.