Robust voter participation is fundamental to a healthy democracy. Sadly, San Francisco’s packed November 2015 ballot won turnout from less than 40% of registered voters -- one fifth of all documented San Franciscans. Meanwhile, nations such as Australia, Belgium and Chile enjoy 90% voter turnout. Across the US, recent elections have shown some of the lowest voter turnout since World War II. 16 and 17 year old voting would increase voter engagement across the entire electorate.
7 reasons why 16 and 17 year olds should vote
1. Robust voter participation is fundamental to a healthy democracy.
Sadly, San Francisco is no exception to low voter turnout rates that characterize the rest of the country. 16 and 17 year old voting would create lifelong voters and boost San Francisco’s voter turnout over the long term.
2. 16 year old voting builds lifelong voters.
Research shows that voting is habitual. Once someone casts their first vote, they will continue voting. And the earlier someone starts voting, the more likely they are to become a lifelong voter.
3. 16 year old voting will increase voter turnout over the long term.
Research suggests that 16 and 17 year old voting will have a “trickle up” effect on parents and family members, increasing voter turnout all around.
4. Age 16 is a better age to begin voting than age 18.
At age 16, young people are embedded in their communities of origin, where they know and care about local issues. 16 and 17 year olds are enrolled in school and are living with family members who are voters. They have the opportunity to have classroom and dinner table conversations that support informed voting choices. By comparison, age 18 is a year of intense transitions for most young people, making it a challenging time to establish new voting habits. As a result, many young people currently do not begin voting until their late twenties.
5. 16 year old voting is not new.
Many countries around the world have extended part or full suffrage to young adults, such as Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Nicaragua, Switzerland. When given the chance, 16 and 17 year olds will vote. Other countries, as well as US cities that allow 16 year old voting, like Takoma Park, Maryland, have found that 16 and 17 year olds turn out in high numbers.
6. In San Francisco, one in three SFUSD students have an immigrant parent, who may themselves not have the right to vote.
In addition, two of the San Francisco neighborhoods with the highest density of households with children, the Bayview and Visitacion Valley, have the lowest voter turnout. With San Francisco having a low and decreasing number of families with children and an aging electorate, we want to see that young people are directly at the table, having a voice on civic issues.
7. 16 and 17 year olds are prepared to and deserve to vote.
Teens today have more access to knowledge and information and more outlets for debating social and political issues than ever before. Research shows that 16-year-olds’ political knowledge is about the same as 21-year-olds’ and quite close to the average for all adults, and that 16 and 17 year olds have developed the ability to logically analyze information and make responsible voting choices. Results from the Scottish independence referendum also show us that teens can and do vote independently. Many civic responsibilities accrue at age 16. 16-17 year olds can work without limitations on hours, pay taxes, drive cars, and be tried in adult courts. As people who use public services and are affected by government decisions--16-17 year olds are ready to have a say in how government is run.
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