Youth aged 16 and 17 could gain the right to vote in municipal elections if existing voters approve a charter amendment in November. City supervisors have introduced that amendment, and if it continues to see widespread support from the board, the measure will go to the ballot.
This will be San Francisco’s second time voting on such an expansion of voting rights — a similar 2016 measure failed with just shy of 48% support. Nationally, only a few municipalities have extended voting rights to youth, but in other countries where youth can vote, their turnout rates tend to be higher. San Francisco Youth Commissioners Sarah Cheung and Rocky Versace gave participation as one reason they have worked to extend voting rights to young people.
“Sixteen- and 17-year-olds, we do make our own decisions, we don’t follow our parents blindly. Additionally, we are politically engaged and informed. We are eager to vote. We do act as adults in many capacities. We earn incomes and pay taxes and yet we’re not represented.” — Rocky Versace
“COVID-19 has made it more apparent about how the voices of 16- and 17-year-olds are necessary. Young people face an uncertain future in the midst of the pandemic and also an economic crisis, so I feel like 16- and 17-year-olds should definitely deserve a say in decisions about our recovery.” — Sarah Cheung
A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.