Proposition 18, which proposed an amendment to the California state constitution that allowed 17-year-old citizens who would be 18 by the next general election to vote in primary and special elections, was preliminarily defeated by voters on Election Day last week.
According to California’s Official State Ballot Results webpage, Proposition 18 failed at a total of 55% “No” votes versus 45% “Yes” votes statewide.
Currently, 20 states as well as the District of Columbia allow all 17-year-old citizens to vote in primary elections. Four states also currently allow 17-year-olds registered as Democrats to vote in primary elections.
The “Yes on 18 – Vote for our Future” campaign, one of the official proponents for the measure, argued that this proposition should have passed, following the precedent set by other states, to safeguard American democracy by expanding the right to vote.
“Young people are those most affected by election issues such as climate change, gun laws, student debt, healthcare, and the economy,” the “Yes on 18” campaign stated on their website. “They deserve the right to vote in primaries because they are the generation most impacted by election outcomes.”
Kevin Go, a 17-year-old senior at Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, California, agreed with the “Yes on 18” campaign. He argued that Prop. 18 should have been passed to give young students a chance to be more civically engaged.
“I think it just makes sense. They’re voting in the general election anyway, so they should have a say in who and what they want to vote for … These policies still affect us, and we are constituents who should be represented,” Go said.
Go has already been politically active despite his age — he is the youngest member of the Southern Alameda County Young Democrats and has worked on over six political campaigns so far.
He said that many young people, such as himself, are politically active even before the age of 17. Go believes that the passing of Prop. 18 would have incentivized first time voters to participate in elections, thus setting a precedent of more civic engagement for the rest of their lives.
Go also noted that Prop. 18 addressed ageism, an issue he believes isn’t acknowledged enough.
“The argument is ‘17 year olds are dumb,’ now this is gonna sound rude but my argument is that some adults are dumb too! Some students who would be voting would probably be more informed than some adults,” Go said.
While no official “No on 18” campaigns exist, the Voter Guide listed Ruth Weiss, the Legislative Oversight Coordinator at the Election Integrity Project, as an opponent contact.
In her San Diego Union-Tribune commentary piece titled “Vote no on Prop. 18 because allowing minors to vote is wrong and could be disastrous,” Weiss argued that voting is an adult responsibility and should not be given to youth prematurely.
“Our youth show magnificent potential to manage the future. But let’s not blur the line between potential and readiness,” Weiss said.
In reference to the Affordable Care Act, which allows one to be covered under their parent’s health insurance until 26 years old, Weiss argued that existing legislation suggests an increase in the age of majority.
“In light of this backdrop, it smacks of hypocrisy or a hidden agenda to suggest that for voting — an activity requiring analytical and reasoning skills and wisdom born of life experience — any age lower than 18 is appropriate,” Weiss wrote.
Kimo Gandall, who is the Chairman Emeritus for the College Republicans at UCI, chief justice of the UCI Student Government and prior state Republicans chair, also opposed the passing of Prop. 18.
“I am persuaded that I would not want high school students, people pre-diploma, to be having an active voice in the arena of politics. The reason the public school institution exists is to educate people on how to perform, to some extent, their civil service,” Gandall said.
Gandall also argued that passing the proposition would have allowed young voters to be manipulated into voting left.
“It’s not really about getting younger people, 17 year olds, to vote. It’s really about getting a population that can be easily manipulated because of how the public school system works,” Gandall said.
“Under the influence of the education system, high school minors could easily become a voting bloc who would impact tax increase and debt authorization decisions without hearing or understanding opposing views,” Weiss stated in her commentary piece, echoing Gandall’s argument.
Go disagreed with this particular sentiment, arguing that the demographic of 17-year-old Democrats is small enough to not have such drastic impacts on election outcomes either way.
“It’s the Republicans’ fault that they are off putting young people. That shouldn’t be an issue, if we get more people to vote, whether they lean one way or another, that doesn’t matter as long as people have their voice being heard,” Go said.
The “Yes on 18” campaign and Weiss could not be reached for further comment.
Dhanika Pineda is a 2020-2021 Campus News Co-Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.