Proposition 18, the ballot initiative that, if passed, would allow 17-year-olds to vote in state primary elections, began to see a larger push against it in July, with many older voter blocs forming a large challenge for the upcoming November general election vote.
A state constitutional amendment to allow 17-year-old voters
The proposition aims at opening up some voting up to 17-year-olds in California. While those who are 17 on election day in November would still be ineligible to vote due to the 26th Amendment, those who are residents of California, 17 during the primary election, and would be 18 by the fall general election in November would be eligible. 17-year-olds would also be allowed to vote in any special elections at age 17 as long as they are 18 by the general election date as well.
Prop 18 had began its life in early 2019 as Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4. ACA 4, authored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) was passed only in June, with Democrats and Republicans almost entirely being split on the bill. Democrats almost unanimously favored passage with Republicans largely being against it.
While the initial legislative vote was widely seen as a precursor to the fall results in California, a growing movement among older voters has been putting passage of Prop 18 into doubt.
Some election groups such as Election Integrity Project California have argued that, at 17, those potential voters would still be considered minors. Many would also face influence of parents in teachers in voting, due to living at home and being in school. But groups of older voters have found another reason that has gained traction.
“Under the age of 18, many are ill-informed,” said Ted Powers, a retired electrician who has been working independently against the passage of Prop 18 in Riverside County, in a California Globe interview. “It’s easy to say to people like me that this is because they are more likely to vote Democrat, but this is the primaries. That doesn’t matter so much in most races.”
“The reason me and others are working against this is because people that young get most of their information from Twitter, from comedians on TV like John Oliver, or by similar means. They’re inside an information bubble. And hey, people my age can be too. But the difference is that their brains are still developing and it can be harder to filter and reason information. They’ll be less willing to do the research and find the best decision.”
“Zoomers have political passion. It reminds me of when I was in high school and college sometimes. But we need to wait on early adult development. The drinking age was moved to 21 and the tobacco age is progressively going up too because of this. Let’s not pedal backwards on voting of all things.”
Supporters fight against rising popularity of opposing Prop 18
While Ted and others are having regional successes in reaching voters in California in opposing Prop 18, many groups representing young voters have had a different argument in favor of passing the proposition. The League of Women Voters, the California Association of Student Councils, and other groups have been fighting against the surge of popularity for opposing Prop 18 by noting that many people who are 18 on election day in the general election miss out for choosing the candidates to begin with earlier in the year.
Supporters have also said that 17-year-olds, while not legally adults, have to deal with adult actions such as paying taxes, working at jobs, funding their own education, and other things that mark them as having a part in the process.
“Young people are directly affected by issues like employment initiatives, affordable housing and education funding,” explained Assemblyman Mullin last month. “They have what I would call “skin in the game” on these and other issues and I believe we should be looking for ways to amplify their voices.
“By now, most people know that I’m someone who is a strong supporter of civic engagement. This … is about getting more Californians involved in the political process regardless of their party affiliation. It’s not a partisan issue; it’s a civic engagement issue.”
Proposition 18 will be on the general election ballot this November. If it passes, California will join 18 other states and Washington, D.C. in allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections.
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