Voters in San Francisco will get to decide this November whether 16 and 17-year-olds should be given the right to vote on local candidates and ballot measures when the city votes on Measure G.
There’s no question that teenagers these days are engaged in politics, said 17-year-old Sarah Cheung, who serves on the city’s Youth Commission.
“16 and 17-year-olds are the ones who organized the Mission High School protest back in June. 16 and 17-year-olds were the ones who organized the Golden Gate Bridge protest. And for both of those, thousands of people showed up,” she said.
Even though she is not old enough to vote, Cheung is the politically engaged one in her family.
“My parents and even my sister who’s in college, they’re voting, trying to get their ballot in and they were asking me a lot of the questions like, ‘oh what is this prop about?’”
There are many ways for teenagers to engage in politics, but not by voting.
College freshman Arianna Nassiri says that barrier is similar to what women experienced when they were fighting for the right to vote.
“They are directly being impacted by the majority of policies being voted on at the local level. However, the current electorate skews over a decade older than the average citizen,” said Nassiri.
Both women argue that Measure G will also help build a habit of voting at a young age. Studies have shown that when people start voting young, they are more likely to continue voting for the rest of their lives.
But conservative commentator Richie Greenberg says there is reason why only adults can vote. He says teenagers are not mature enough to make decisions that impact taxpayers.
“A teen voting at 16 and 17 can actually wind up raising taxes on their own parents’ homes,” said Greenberg.
He also argues that social media and schools are powerful influences that indoctrinate young people before they have a chance to form opinions of their own.
“They’re not seeing the full picture. If this then affects them when they go to the polls, they won’t even know what the options are, what the other sides are.”
But Nassiri argues that in today’s social media landscape, you could say the same for adults.
“Rather than punishing a group of people for something that’s out of their control, why not reform the system that regulates advertising tactics, and how we teach about civics and the conversations we have about elections?”
A similar move failed in the last election by about 3%, but Greenberg says it could go either way this time.