Prop. 18 to allow some 17-year-olds in CA to vote if passed

Photo of individuals casting their vote
Josh Kahen/File
This November, California residents will vote on Proposition 18, which would amend the California Constitution to allow certain eligible 17-year-olds to vote in special elections and the primary election. This photo was taken March 3, 2020.

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If passed this November, Proposition 18 will allow 17-year-old California residents to participate in a full election cycle if they reach age 18 by the next general election.

The California Constitution currently grants voting rights to U.S. citizens residing in the state who are 18 years old or older on the date of the election. If passed, Prop. 18 would amend the current constitution to allow 17-year-olds to vote in special elections and the primary election if they are 18 by the next general election, according to the California general election voter guide.

“(Prop. 18) has a strong potential to boost civic participation amongst California’s youth voters, a demographic that is very underrepresented when it comes to voter turnout,” Kevin Mullin, California State Assembly speaker pro tempore and member, D-San Mateo, said in an email.

Mullin added that it would encourage the youth to be lifelong voters by allowing them to vote as soon as they are eligible.

Prop. 18 is expected to increase costs for counties – between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $1 million every two years – to send and process voting materials to eligible and registered 17-year-olds, according to the voter guide. The guide also states that there would be an increased one-time cost of “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to update existing voter registration systems in the state.

Berkeley resident Alfred Twu said these costs are insignificant within the greater context of the state budget, and getting more young voters involved in the election process early on creates long-term involvement.

“Not only do you have more people participating in the election in general, but you also involve younger individuals who connect and know more about the local issues and communities that they currently live in as high schoolers,” Twu said.

Daniel Esler, co-founder of NorCal Students for Biden and Berkeley High School student, said in an email that Prop. 18 would allow youth voters in Berkeley to increase pressure on candidates to support issues including equity in education, protection of Berkeley’s homeless population and police reform.

Esler added that the proposition would make youth democracy more representative and “inspire civic education and engagement across the state.”

According to the voter guide, those in opposition of  Prop. 18 argue that in order for voters to make an informed choice, they should hear all sides of an issue.

The guide notes that 17-year-olds are still in high school and are likely to hear only one side of issues included on the ballot, which is why they are viewed as unfit to vote by organizations such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Election Integrity Project California.

On Nov. 3, California residents will vote on Prop. 18, in addition to 11 other ballot measures.

Contact Annika Constantino and Thao Nguyen at [email protected].