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Should 16-year olds have the right to vote in SF?

Amanda Wood
Flickr / Creative Commons

The topic appeared on the ballot in 2016 and 2020, losing both times by a small margin, though gaining more support the second time around.

Youth activist Ewan Barker Plummer was appointed to the San Francisco Youth Commission chair position by Mayor London Breed in 2021. He’s working to garner support among community stakeholders to back another attempt to pass a measure that would grant 16 and 17-year-old San Franciscans the right to vote in local elections.

Barker Plummer told Bay City News: "Lowering the voting age is a pretty common-sense measure to increase engagement overall in our democracy." He added that he’s not only interested in getting young people engaged with voting, he's also concerned with what he refers to as the "year of transition" that so many 18-year-olds go through-- making voting a bit difficult.

Because of that transitional period, many don't begin voting until they're in their 30s, which skews voter engagement older, according to Barker Plummer.

Joy Zhan, youth development specialist for the Youth Commission, further pointed out that beginning at age 16, teens are allowed to begin working, at which point they begin paying taxes.

She provided examples of European countries and smaller cities in the state of Maryland on the East Coast that have already lowered their voting ages -- changes that she said led to increased voter turnout. She added that teens at 16 can obtain a driver's license, a hunting license and an aviation license, and they can also be tried as an adult.

Whether the topic will appear on this year's ballot or in the years to follow is also still being decided.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.