San Francisco could become the first major US city to grant voting rights to teens aged 16 and 17

San Francisco could become the first major US city to grant voting rights to teens aged 16 and 17
Voters cast ballots in voting booths at San Francisco City Hall.AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
  • This fall, San Francisco voters will determine if 16- and 17-year-old voters will have the ability to vote in local elections, which would be a first for a major American city.
  • A similar ballot measure was on the ballot in 2016 and failed by a 48% to 52% margin.
  • Supporters of the proposal hope that recent events throughout the country will make voters rethink allowing younger citizens to be a part of the political process.
  • Several Washington, DC, suburbs have already lowered their municipal voting age to 16.

In November, San Francisco voters could potentially grant voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in local elections, which would be a first for a major US city, according to NBC News.

A similar measure, which would have amended the city charter to lower the voting age in municipal races, was narrowly defeated by city voters in 2016, losing by a 48%-52% margin. A new ballot measure was introduced this past May, with supporters "seizing on momentum generated by recent national movements for climate action, gun-law reform and other causes led by young people," The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The push for teen voting rights on the local level has been driven by the VoteSF16 campaign, which was commenced by the San Francisco Youth Commission in 2015. It's also part of the larger Vote16USA initiative, which promotes voting for 16- and 17-year-olds across the country.
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"Research is clear on this, that voting is a habit. And 16 is a better time than 18 to establish that habit," Brandon Klugman, Vote16's campaign manager, told NBC News. "Our motivation here first and foremost is to make sure that we put new voters in a position to establish that habit in the first election they're eligible for, and then to continue participating throughout their lives which is good for democracy on every level."

In 2013, Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC, lowered the voting age to 16 for municipal elections as the first in the nation to do so. Nearby DC suburbs including Greenbelt, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park followed suit over the course of the last decade. Additionally, 18 states and DC allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will turn 18 by the general election.

Democratic US Reps. Grace Meng of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts have both expressed support for lowering the voting age to 16 for federal, state and local elections. Meng introduced legislation to lower the voting age in 2018 and the next year, Pressley introduced a similar amendment to H.R. 1 ("For the People Act of 2019"), a sweeping voting reform package that was passed by the newly minted Democratic House majority but blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
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