San Francisco prepares to allow children to vote

San Francisco prepares to allow children to vote

There will be more than just presidential and congressional elections on the ballot on November 3rd. In San Francisco, they’re going to be voting about voting. Specifically, city residents will be voting on whether or not to lower the voting age for municipal elections to 16, making the City by the Bay the first, major municipality to do so. (Some smaller cities and towns have already implemented similar measures over the past decade.) This scheme is largely being driven by a group known as Vote 16, who worked to get it on the ballot. This is the second time they’ve tried, with the first effort failing two years ago. (NBC News)

San Francisco residents will cast ballots in November to determine not just who should be in the White House but also whether 16- and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote in local elections.

A similar measure introduced in 2016 narrowly failed, with 48 percent of the vote, but local activists and organizers are confident that it will pass this time.

“I really think that Vote 16 will help youth of color in San Francisco establish the habit of voting at an earlier age and really provide them with the support and the resources that they need to continue building on that habit as they grow older,” said Crystal Chan, 18, an organizer for Vote 16 SF who fought to get the measure on the ballot.

It appears that Vote 16 is trying to glom onto the current state of racial unrest sweeping the nation after coming up short in 2018. Notice how their spokesperson specifies that the measure will help “youth of color” establish the habit of voting at an early age. But the proposition doesn’t only apply to minorities. It applies to all children 16 and older. And the reality is that nobody establishes a habit of voting at 16 in almost all of the United States because we don’t allow children to vote, regardless of their race, gender or any other factor.

That fact highlights the primary reason to oppose a measure such as this and it’s no different from questions we’ve debated here before concerning the minimum age for all manner of activities. These include the ability to get married, to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco products, or enlist in the military. Voting should be no different as far as I’m concerned.

More than a year ago I posed a question here that I felt led to some productive discussions. When are you an adult? While it varies greatly from culture to culture, pretty much all of humanity has recognized from the beginning that there’s some point in a person’s development where they leave the stage of childhood and enter into the world of adult responsibilities. And there’s plenty of science to support the proposition that human brains, both physically and emotionally, continue to develop for quite a while.

The people supporting Vote 16 in San Francisco don’t appear to disagree with that premise, otherwise why not let children vote at 14? Or 8? But they’re not suggesting that. They’re saying that you should be mature enough at the age of 16 to make decisions that affect everyone in your community and impact legislative activity, budgets and everything else. How many of you really think 16-year-olds have that kind of maturity? Sure, there are exceptions who come from families that provide the appropriate levels of discipline and guidance at an early age, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Frankly, I’m not sure most 18-year-olds should be trusted with such matters, particularly when I remember how I was at 18 when I enlisted in the military.

This is more left-coast nonsense rearing its head in the middle of too many other crisis situations. But there’s nothing to be done about it at this point. This is a local matter and the citizens of the city will have to decide for themselves. But if the 2020 municipal budget winds up including free tickets to Disneyland for everyone, don’t come crying to us.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023