Prop. 18 could make voting a reality for some 17-year-olds in California

VOTE%3A+An+official+California+election+drop+box+was+ready+for+ballots+at+the+Westside+Jewish+Community+Center+Oct.+21.+Many+people+are+voting+by+mail+to+avoid+exposure+to+Covid-19+while+waiting+at+polling+places%2C+and+mail-in+ballots+can+also+be+placed+in+drop+boxes+around+the+state.

BP Photo by Benjamin Gamson, Proposition Logo by Sarah Feuer, Election Logo by Eli Weiss

VOTE: An official California election drop box was ready for ballots at the Westside Jewish Community Center Oct. 21. Many people are voting by mail to avoid exposure to Covid-19 while waiting at polling places, and mail-in ballots can also be placed in drop boxes around the state.

By Benjamin Gamson, Shalhevet High School

Some 17-year-olds in California may soon get the right to vote, depending on what happens with a proposition on the statewide Nov. 3 ballot. 

Proposition 18 would amend the California state Constitution to allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election if they will turn 18 by the next General Election or Special Election. The current voting age is 18 for all elections. 

“Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections if They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and be Otherwise Eligible to Vote,” states the ballot. “Legislative Constitutional Amendment.”

Shalhevet seniors who have turned 18 will be eligible to vote next month in the General Election. They did not get to vote in the March 3 primary, but they would have if this proposition had been in effect.  

Senior Akiva Rubin — who already has cast his ballot for Nov. 3 — voted yes on Prop. 18.

“Teenagers really should have a say in this country, especially now,” said Akiva, “since in the past few years a lot of teenagers have been voicing their opinion about a lot of different things in politics and kinda really starting to make a change.”

He added that he thought if a 17-year-old could join the military, he or she should be able to vote for policies.

“If you’re 17, you should be able to vote for that [primary election] as well,” said Akiva “It’s like not even a full year difference.”

“If you’re 17, you should be able to vote for that [primary election] as well. It’s like not even a full year difference.”

— Akiva Rubin, 12th grade

Senior Kate Orlanski, who is also eligible to vote this fall, said she was still studying whether to support Prop. 18. She said that she has friends in other states where this law is in effect. 

“I don’t really see why it’s necessary,” said Kate. “I just kinda think there’s a cutoff it’s 18 — you can vote when you’re 18.” But she said she would still consider it. 

Supporters of Prop. 18 say that since these 17-year-olds will be able to vote in the General Election they should be able to participate in the Primary Election and choose who they will be voting for in the General.

English teacher Nancy Fasules said she supports the proposition but worries that 17-year-olds might just follow their parents opinions. 

Still, she thinks the proposal makes sense.

“If you’re going to be voting for a candidate because you’re old enough, you should be allowed to help choose that candidate,” Ms. Fasules said.

Shalhevet SAS Civics teacher Mr. William Reusch said he would probably support the proposition too, though he believes how informed people are should outweigh their age as a qualification. He also stressed the importance of a good civics education. 

His fear is that while being eligible younger would improve teens’ engagement — that is, their actual involvement in the democratic process — real progress requires adults preparing them to do so — something that’s not part of Prop. 18. 

“I think it would promote civic engagement, I don’t think it would promote civic education,” Mr. Reusch said. “And education is what I want. I don’t want more people voting.  Everyone says, ‘Go vote, go vote, go vote.’  It’s like no, no — go learn about the issues, then vote.” 

Mr. Reusch also said that he thought kids might buy into policies that “sound good,” and he worries that that candidates could take advantage of them.

“If you’re going to be voting for someone when you’re 18 in the regular election, then you should be able to vote in the primaries… that will give you more say in the choices when you do have the choice.””

— Mr. William Reusch, Civics and U.S. History teacher

“Kids are more easily susceptible to things that sound good,” Mr. Reusch said. “They have very little life experiences. When you talk about raising taxes, they have never operated a business they have never paid taxes. So I think that is a real concern.”

Still, he expects to support Prop. 18.

“If you’re going to be voting for someone when you’re 18 in the regular election, then you should be able to vote in the primaries, special election, and things like that will give you more say in the choices when you do have the choice,” said Mr. Reusch.

Prop. 18 would be a constitutional amendment, and therefore needs to be approved by the voters of California after having been approved by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the California Legislature (State Senate and State Assembly) by a two-thirds majority. 

It passed the California State Senate by a vote of 31 to seven on June 25 and the State Assembly by a vote of 56 to 13 on June 26. 

A total of 18 other states, including Illinois, Connecticut and Ohio, have similar laws, as does Washington, D.C.

Some California legislators attempted to put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot lowering the voting age completely to 17. On Aug. 22, 2019 it passed the State Assembly 57-16, but did not receive a vote in the State Senate before the June 25, 2020, deadline.

This story was originally published on The Boiling Point on October 28, 2020.