Should San Francisco lower the voting age to 16?


Fact Box

  • Proposition F would grant 16 and 17 year-olds U.S. citizens and residents of San Francisco the right to vote in municipal and school board elections.
  • A similar proposition in 2016 failed to pass, receiving about 48 percent of the vote.
  • In California, the current voting age is 18. You can pre-register to vote at 16 or 17.
  • On July 5, 1971, President Richard Nixon certified the 26th Amendment granting 18 year olds the right to vote. Previously, the voting age had been 21 in most states.

Tyler (Yes)

San Francisco is setting a great example for cities across the country by considering lowering the voting age to 16. By the age of 16, teenagers nationwide begin to take on similar responsibilities as the average adult. 229,000 teens from the age of 16 and 17 work full-time and file taxes. Every year, around 250,000 teenagers are tried as adults in court. With responsibilities and consequences like this, 16-year-olds should be granted the privilege to vote. In 2017, there were just over 197,000 children born to teenage parents. These parents should have the right to place a vote influencing their child's future.

Studies show 16-year-olds have peak cognitive decision-making when compared to 30, 40, and 50-year-olds. By the age of 16, adolescents already have comparable IQ test scores to adults. Scientist Juliet Davidow concluded in certain instances, teens aged 13-17 retain information at a much higher rate than adults.

The amount of teenagers interested in politics has doubled from 31 to 62% in the past ten years. When Vienna gave 16-year-olds the right to vote, they actually had a significantly higher voter turnout than the 18-21 age group. Polls surveying teens as young as 15 determined 40% of today's youth disapprove of how our current administration is handling key issues such as 'immigration, environmental issues, racism, and higher education costs.' By giving 16-year-olds the right to vote, the United States will gain a needed perspective on its future.

Bill (No)

San Francisco should not lower the voting age to 16 for a variety of reasons. Lowering the voting age is an idea with very little public support, as 84% of registered voters are opposed. It's not a wise re-election strategy for politicians to pass such unpopular legislation with their constituents. 16-year-olds are still dependents (reliant on their parents and teachers for basic needs and education). They have never had to make decisions on typical life challenges that often determine election outcomes, such as tax policy, interest rates, investments, housing (rent or buy), health care plans, education policy (charter or public schools), and more. Simply put, teenage voters lack the judgment and wisdom that comes with life experience. 

45% of teenagers say they're online 'almost constantly,' which affects their emotional maturity—social media disproportionally influences them to have a narrow, warped, and shallow worldview, making them poor additions to the voting population. Social media should be a marketplace of ideas, but a notable liberal bias is evident when Twitter and other platforms routinely censor conservative and libertarian points of view. Impressionable young minds fed a steady diet of anti-conservative dogma creates an automatic voting bloc for Democrats—an unfair advantage.

Lastly, young voters are typically the least engaged and civic-minded of the voting populace. Young people vote in lower numbers than any other age demographic. In the past eight presidential elections, 60% of young voters (range 18-29) have not turned out to vote. The vote should remain reserved for independent, life-savvy, and, ideally, well-informed adults.

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