Extend local voting rights to teens

Recently in San Francisco, a city supervisor introduced a charter amendment to lower the voting age in municipal elections to 16 due to a resolution penned by a San Francisco teen. The Campanile not only applauds the actions of the brave teenager standing up for his right to have a voice in the democratic process, but also encourages other Bay Area cities to follow suit, starting with Palo Alto.

The Campanile believes that not only will this give more people the chance to have a say in voting but also increase the commitment and awareness of young adults in the voting process as they grow up and find themselves in different communities. Studies have shown that by the age of 16, teenagers have generally fully developed the regions of their brain responsible for logical thinking, and thus have as valid of a voice as a legal adult. Numerous studies have also shown that lifetime involvement in voting and civil affairs depends, in large part, on the age of the person when he or she casts his or her first vote. As such, young adults who start voting in municipal elections at the age of 16 are much more likely to continue to remain politically active throughout the duration of their lives.

The move is also not without precedent. In 2013, two cities in Maryland, Takoma Park and Hyattsville, each lowered their municipal voting ages to 16 in quick succession. Those cities have seen no negative impacts or a lower voting age and have yet to report on the influence on voting behavior in the future.

When the voting age was lowered to 18 years old in 1971, it came as a result of citizens complaining that they could be forced to join the military and fight in a war without having the right to vote.

Currently, 16 year olds can drive, become their own legal guardians, or be sentenced to life in prison, yet remain unable to vote on the issues concerning them. It is only fair that they should be able to vote municipally, as many of the propositions, specifically those pertaining to education, affect them more than any other group of residents of the city. They should be able to see the real impact of their vote on their lives, setting them up for a strong history in voting and furthering their interest in public service.

More than 3,500 residents of Palo Alto are between 15 and 19 years old and most of those are fully capable, and therefore deserve the right to vote.