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Oakland Measure QQ: Youth Voting in School Board Elections

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The entrance to Oakland's McClymonds High School at sunset.

This is a 2-minute summary of what’s on the ballot. Click here to listen to them all.

Right now in Oakland, you have to be 18 years old to vote in a school board election. Measure QQ would give the City Council the power to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in them. To be clear, they don’t have to allow it, but they could. 

Student leaders in Oakland have been lobbying for this right for a long time. And they were validated when the City Council voted unanimously, in May, to place Measure QQ on the ballot. Their vote was supported by the Mayor, the teachers’ union, and several School Board members.

Supporters of Measure QQ note students are directly affected by the decisions of the Oakland Unified School Board, so they should be able to vote on them. Supporters also believe that allowing young people to vote encourages them to be active participants in future elections. And believe it or not, in one city that passed a similar measure — 16 and 17 year olds voted in a higher percentage than any other age demographic. 

There is no official opposition to Measure QQ. But Oaklandside reported on concerns raised by school board member Shanthi [Sh-awn-tee] Gonzalez. She says even adults have difficulty understanding board elections, campaigns and the organizations that fund them. In her opinion, it’s irresponsible to allow teens to vote without a plan or resources to educate them.

One final note: Across the Bay San Franciscans will vote this year on whether to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in all municipal elections.  

So, Oakland, if you think your City Council should have the chance to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote for their district’s School Board rep, vote Yes on Measure QQ. If you don’t want the City to have that power, vote no.

 
 

Annelise was born and raised in the East Bay and has a background in oral history and urban studies. For the last four and half years, she's worked as a criminal defense investigator at a public defenders office in the Bronx, New York and at an appellate defenders office in the Bay Area. As an investigator, she frequently interviews people involved in different parts of the criminal punishment system. Through her work, she has become passionate about the power of personal narratives and compelling stories to increase cross-cultural understanding and initate change.
David Boyer is the managing editor of KALW News. He is also the producer/host of the Murrow Award winning podcast THE INTERSECTION, which looks at our changing cities, one street corner at a time. Past seasons focussed on an intersection in the middle of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, an intersection in the middle of Google’s Mountain View campus and conceptual intersections at 2019’s Burning Man.