Group pushes to lower San Francisco voting age to 16

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- At 16 years old, teenagers are allowed to drive cars and get jobs and some city leaders are wondering why they shouldn't also vote.

Gathered inside San Francisco City Hall Monday night, 16- and 17-year-olds chanted for what they call a basic American right.

They're proposing a ballot measure to lower the voting age to 16 and they have quite a few adults supporting them such as public defender Jeff Adachi, and two members of the board of supervisors.

"I've seen that young people actually have a lot to contribute to civic engagement, helping to improve neighborhoods, schools," said San Francisco supervisor John Avalos.

Avalos is quick to point out that it's the teenagers who started this, worried that if their generation doesn't start voting early it never will.

"Often times at 18, you're thinking about going to college, thinking about work, so voting rights then is not a priority," said San Francisco Youth Commissioner Joshua Cardenas.

San Francisco would not be the first place to allow voting at 16.

Two cities in Maryland already do it and teens there turn out to vote at four times the rate of adults. Sixteen-year-olds also voted in Scotland's independence referendum. Polling showed many voted differently from their parents.

"What the research shows is that 16 and 17-year-olds actually do have about the same political knowledge as 21-year-olds and very close to the older electorate as well, so we think that they're ready," said Adele Failes-Carpenter, San Francisco Youth Commission director said.

And if they could vote, Linkon Pickus, San Francisco School of the Arts class president, told ABC7 News he would like to decide on education funding.

"Where funding went for that would be something applied directly to them and would have to be taken care of by politicians," Pickus said.

Some voters think teens would only make things worse.

"We'd have more politicians that were voted in by 16-year-olds, that would actually turn the political system upside down," one man said.

Younger teens can't get the right to vote without the votes of a lot of people who are older than they are.

First, the board of supervisors would have to approve a charter amendment. Then that amendment would go on the ballot for all currently eligible voters to decide, possibly as soon as November.
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