Yes on Y1: Youth voting for BUSD Board of Directors

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Caragh McErlean/Staff

Approving Measure Y1 would allow 16- and 17-year-olds the opportunity to vote in elections for the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Directors.

The board’s decisions primarily affect students in the Berkeley school district, but as it stands now, most students graduate before they are old enough to vote. Y1 would change the rules so at least some students have the opportunity to effect change in their schools and enjoy greater representation.

But giving 16- and 17-year-olds a vote is more than a tool for enfranchisement. It also means that for these Berkeley residents, their first foray into democracy will be wholly centered on local politics and small-scale elections.

If this means that these young residents will receive an earlier introduction to the world of local politics — a world without the pizzazz of national headlines and social media attention — it could start them on a path toward civic engagement in their own community.

It would also give students a greater opportunity to hold the school board accountable to their wishes. While they are already welcome to speak at school board meetings and meet with board members, their ability to wield the power of a vote ensures that students’ concerns can’t be ignored, particularly in a local race that can be decided by so few votes. If mobilized, students would become a highly influential voting bloc in school board elections.

Measure Y1 is a long overdue change that would enfranchise young people with the biggest stake in school board elections — it’s their education, after all. And the fact that Berkeley High School students made this measure happen only makes it sweeter.

Endorsements represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.