Turning 16 may no longer just mean the right of passage for young people to get their driver’s license. Soon, turning 16 could also mean the right to vote. The Greenlining Institute has joined a growing list of advocacy organizations in the effort to expand voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds. New legislation that’s in the works aims to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote to vote in their local school board and community college board elections.
“I think they’re mature enough and they have firsthand experience of what’s going on in schools – they should have a voice in it,” says Assembly woman Lorena Gonzalez. “The decisions that are made at local school boards and community college boards are affecting them probably more than anything else.” Gonzalez and advocacy groups see the importance of allowing Californians under the legal age to have the right to participate in issues that affect them directly.
“Yes, I would vote. My education is important to me and as well as others. We are the world’s future” Ivan Caballero a student of Sacramento’s John F. Kennedy High School. “(Teens voting) seems like it could work. This could expose them to something that could possibly give them a feeling of having their voice heard.”
Many feel that young people at the age of sixteen have already developed a great deal of maturity and responsibilities from getting their first job, obtaining a license, or having taken an array of history courses that deal with government and law. That’s why some students believe they should also have the ability to vote on issues that matter to them.
“Not giving a student a voice makes them feel trapped and useless”, says Caballero.
Proponents believe strongly that allowing students to vote on small-scale elections will generate greater interest, promote political participation, allow young people to be informed, and putting direct youth issues onto the political agenda. Lorena Gonzalez’s office says they still don’t know exactly when the legislation will be heard, but are hoping soon.