Eight San Francisco Supervisors appear to support a charter amendment lowering the local voting age to 16, a measure to be voted on by that board next week, which if approved would send the proposal to the ballot this November. The charter amendment measure is spearheaded by Supervisor John Avalos, and according to a headcount from the Examiner, a majority is now in place after some smart, cute kids won hearts and minds.
“We have a city that really provides a place for young people to get involved in our communities, that helps young people to be engaged civically,” said Avalos during a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Youth Commission yesterday, an event that marked a first for the a city. “I think that extending the right to vote for young people is just another step in the right direction.” Five supervisors co-sponsored the legislation, a measure Avalos introduced at the Youth Commission's request.
While Supervisors Peskin, Tang, and Breed didn't co-sponsor, they indicated they would vote in favor of extending suffrage to 16- and 17-year-olds, joining the five co-sponsors for an eight supervisor majority. As Breed, who has described herself as a "problematic child," put it, “I came in here thinking in my mind there was absolutely no way I would support this." She appears to have changed her mind.
At the hearing of the board yesterday, Department of Elections head John Arntz put the number of added votes from 16- and 17-year-old San Franciscans at 10,000 to 13,000. 450,000 voters are registered in the city. Just 45 percent of San Franciscans eligible to vote participated in last November's election. “There will be some things to work out going forward,” Arntz did add.
Others dissented: According to the Chronicle, Supervisor Cohen raised questions about costs, and Supervisor Peskin proposed a compromise by which minor voters might only vote for the Board of Ed.
The 17-year-old vice chair of the Youth Commission and a senior at Lick-Wilmerding High school, Jilian Wu pointed to the power of habituating young people to vote — “build lifelong voters and strengthen our democracy.”
Supervisor Wiener stated he was "inclined" to agree. “I have over time met many, many 16- and 17-year-olds who are every bit as engaged, articulate and passionate as any adult,” he said. “If you look at the number of 40- and 50-year-olds who deny climate change and think President Obama is not a citizen of this country ... I don’t think age is always the best proxy for how knowledgeable someone is.”
Related: Cigarette Buying No Longer An All-Ages Event in SF, As Supes Vote To Raise Tobacco Purchase Age To 21