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Richmond Youth Council aims to lower voting age

on November 20, 2015

Sixteen-year-olds can drive and wash their cars, pay taxes from working their minimum wage jobs, consent to certain medical treatment and be criminally charged as adults. Now, they want to vote too.

A city-appointed advisory board of Richmond youth recently decided to join San Francisco youth in a campaign called “16 in ’16,” which seeks to lower the voting age to 16 in municipal and school board elections. A new commission of members drawn from San Francisco, Richmond youth councils and local school boards will lead the initiative.

“It’s pathetic—17-year-olds can enlist in the military,” with parental consent, “but can’t pick their elected officials,” said Joseph Jackson, chair of the Richmond Youth Council.

Critics of the 16 in ’16 campaign argue that teenagers lack the maturity to vote. Although no organized opposition seems to have formed yet, interviews with a few Richmond adults downtown found plenty of skeptics.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt hasn’t ruled out support, but is looking for more information before taking a stand.

“I have encouraged them to continue to explore it,” Butt said.

Jackson’s council wants to hold a quarterly town hall and youth summit to build more political awareness and answer the skeptics.

San Francisco teenagers got the campaign started in the East Bay by making a presentation to their Richmond counterparts. The visitors made the case that teenagers pay taxes and may have as much at stake in policy debates as adults. Backers of voting rights for 16-year-olds also want to create what they call a “trickle-up effect.”

When teenagers take part in local elections, chances increase that their parents will too, raising voter turnout, especially among low-income immigrants. That builds more socially conscious voters, according to the National Youth Rights Association.

During the last election cycle, about 17,000 of Richmond’s 43,000 registered voters cast a ballot. Jackson said the turnout would improve if younger voters are allowed into the voting booths.

The campaign also claims that teenagers would gain a deeper understanding of civic affairs if they are able to participate in elections while still in school. Voting is more likely to develop into a lifelong habit, if it starts with lessons learned in high school, according to Peter Levine, associate dean for research at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.

San Francisco would become the largest U.S. city to allow high school juniors to vote if 16 in ‘16 succeeds. During the past two years, two cities in Maryland, Hyattsville and Takoma Park, lowered their voting ages, and the District of Columbia is also considering it. Other U.S. cities are expected to follow.

But California is different.

The U.S. Constitution does not prevent lowering the voting age to 16, but California Elections code Section 2000 states voting eligibility is “any person who will be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election.”

It would take a decision by the state Legislature to change voter qualifications for statewide elections next year. And all of those legislators are adults.


  1. Diana Diaz-Noriega on November 20, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    “These kids are too stupid to know anything about politics” (Name redacted)
    Comments made like these are just the type that keep me pushing forward for youth rights and youth encouragement in our communities. Why can’t we just encourage our youth; Do we really have to constantly put them down and call them stupid?This does not help them in any way!!

    Many people don’t believe in the agency of our youth in Richmond!
    I love to see youth taking action, especially on issues that affect them personally. Most of the time polices are made and youth are not part of the decision making process, when they are clearly taking the big hits. Shout out to the Richmond Youth Council! As a youth from Richmond myself, you all have my support! I believe in you!! As a 20 year old I have met youth under the age of 25 that are far more politically involved and care about policies then some adults. This can be a positive change for the city of Richmond…think about it: more civically engaged youth with a voice!!!
    Youth have agency, they are aware, and they are experts in their lived lives. Let’s encourage, support, and allow them to make the change our city needs…

    I say we give them the rights the deserve.

  2. Mariahyonce on November 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Yes really even 12 and eventually 9 year olds should be able to vote. Children’s Lives Matter aka Children’s Rights matter. I’m so tired of older children aka Adults silencing the voices of younger children aka children!!

  3. […] ’16,” which seeks to lower the voting age to 16 in municipal and school board elections,” according to Richmond Confidential, a local […]

  4. Sandra Davenport on November 22, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    While I applaud that the students are interested and motivated, sorry but this is absurd. Richmond city council has MANY MORE pressing issues to deal with, such as their horrendous financial situation. Sorry, 16 is simply too young to be able to vote.

  5. Tony Suggs on November 23, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Each election cycle someone tries to come up with an idea to increase voter turnout.

    We have “motor voter” now that will expand to everyone that renewals or apply for a driver license or state issued id card will automatically registered to vote.

    Some want to restore the right to vote to convicted felons.

    Others want to allow “non citizens” vote in local elections.

    Some cities or counties allow voting for weeks in advance.

    And the easiest of all, anyone can vote by mail, if they are citizens.

    Yet after all these changes, each year the number of actual votes casted is going down. Why is that?

    So now lets lower the voting age to the vast majority of 16 years olds who are more concerned with peer pressure, music and the opposite sex than they are about politics.

    They have not yet even graduated from high school, probably have not taken a “civics” or “poly sci” course and we expect them to be able to cut through all the bs that the political parties plaster on 30 second tv commercials.

    With so many adults unable to truly understand politicians and the lies that many of them spew out, how on earth do you expect immature youth to be able to make really informed decisions?

    Yup, this is all we need is more voters that haven’t clue about what or who they are voting for other than someone else told them how to think.

    They would just be another special interest group that the politicians can promise them a bunch of “free” stuff just to get their vote.

    • Sandra Davenport on November 24, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Tony you are so right. I’m an educated person with a legal background and more often than not these ballots are confusing. Not made for a teenager.

  6. […] Source: Richmond Youth Council aims to lower voting age | Richmond Confidential […]

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