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Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote in CA?

Posted: 10:05 PM, Feb 11, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-12 15:25:46Z

SAN DIEGO -- They can't buy alcohol or enlist in the military, but 16-year-olds could soon gain the right to vote in California.

Inside chemistry class at e3 Civic High in downtown San Diego, Ana Little-Sana is deciding on a topic for a project.

“I’ve picked environmental racism,” Little-Sana tells her teacher.

At the age of 16, Little-Sana is no stranger to local and national political causes.

“I love it, it’s what I live for,” said Little-Sana.

Soon she could be turning those passions into votes.

“From a personal perspective, I was so excited,” said Little-Sana.

That excitement comes from the idea just introduced by local assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. Her proposal would amend the state constitution and drop the voting age from 18 to 16, allowing those 16-year-olds to vote in school board and community college board elections. 

Little-Sana believes a lower voting age is justified because students have a big stake in school board races.

“I know when my school board makes a decision, it affects me immediately,” said Little-Sana.

Critics wonder if votes would resemble a high school popularity contest. One conservative blogger has already pointed out a 16-year-old simply isn't mature enough.

Little-Sana doesn't buy it.

“If we trust 16-year-olds to operate a motor vehicle, we should trust 16-year-olds to vote in the ballot box,” said Little-Sana.

Gonzalez has also countered, pointing out brain research shows the decision making abilities of 16-year-olds differ little from 18-year-olds.

Little-Sana believes getting to the ballot box at a younger age could turn voting into a habit.

Amending California's constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the state legislature and a majority vote by the public. Experts say if it passes and students turn out to vote, it could force school boards to be more responsive to student needs.