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Paly, Gunn students join national movement to lower voting age

Original post made on Aug 28, 2019

Students at both Palo Alto and Gunn high schools are mobilizing to demand that their voices -- and their votes -- be recognized through a petition to lower the voting age to 16 for local school board elections.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 9:33 AM

Comments (5)

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2019 at 10:13 am

Whereas I respect the interest of 16 year olds willing to be able to vote in school board elections, I am very much against this idea for two reasons.

The first is that although they do have more experience than I probably do in what services are available to them, I doubt very much that any of the things they are able to vote on will make very much to them because by the time they come into effect, these particular 16 and 17 year olds have probably graduated and will not make a difference to their school careers.

The second is that I am very wary of any proposal to allow 16 year olds who have never paid taxes, budgeted their finances, paid rent or a mortgage, etc. to fully understand the complex ideas surrounding their choice. We are talking about things that just may mean the average household paying substantial more taxes, bonds or parcel taxes, and for what?

UC Berkeley is just starting a course for "adulting" to teach college age students how to file taxes and various other aspects of being independent adults. It is quite apparent to me that our "living skills" classes teach more about sex and drugs than skills on how to live in an adult world. I would guess that the majority of our Gunn and Paly students do not hold after school jobs, do not fully understand the implications of credit cards, of debt, or of how to balance a checkbook. I would say that they may not even do chores around the house or even check the oil in a car.

Some may say that these things are not necessary to make a decision on who should be on the school board, but if school elections for class president, etc. are anything to go by, the one who gives the most cookies, t shirts or empty promises are much more likely to win students votes than anyone with any real manifesto.

If students want more say, then why not increase the scope of the student school board members. These members should, in my opinion, be elected democratically by the student body and their comments at PAUSD board meetings should be valued and perhaps acted on more than at present.

When I think back to myself at 16, or even my kids at that age, yes the average 16 year old has very strong opinions and these opinions are part of the maturing process. However, 10 years later, with more life experience and more awareness of life outside the high school bubble, they are much more likely to have changed than at any other 10 year period in a person's life.


11 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2019 at 11:16 am

While I am dubious that 16-year-olds will be allowed to vote anytime in the near future, I am glad to see teenagers getting more interested and involved in government and community issues. I hope they can enlarge the scope of their project to include education and publicity about issues that affect our city and city government. How about producing some town halls, candidate debates and online information sources, like what the League of Women Voters does?


8 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2019 at 1:25 pm

This is a terrible idea -- in large part because it's clear that children this age have virtually no knowledge of US history, the US governmental structure and virtually no common sense. It's also clear that youths at this age are likely to simply parrot their parents views, and those of their teachers.

It would make a lot more sense to rescind the ill-considered decision to allow 18-year olds to vote, and instead raise the voting age to 26. At least by that age, some of these children would have been able to work for a few years, get a chance to look at their pay checks and wonder why the government is taking such a large chunk, and they might ever by then be homeowners and parents -- which gives everyone a new perspective on the world.

No .. this idea is definitely a non-starter!


14 people like this
Posted by Recent Paly Alum
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2019 at 2:09 pm

Perhaps the worst part of beign a student in Palo Alto is constantly being told that your voice and opinion is valued but never being truly heard. There are very few avenues for students to impact change on their community. The same way the students can select their own class presidents, they should allow to have influence on the board that governs their district. 16 year olds are most definitly old enough to understand the intracicies of a small town school board election. They are, after all, students at some of the states most competitive and rigourous schools. The students, who are among the most impacted groups of decisions made by our school board, therefore need to be able to have a say in who is in the governing body. They aren't asking to vote on serious statewide ballots or presidential elections, rather a sigular local election. Let them vote!


9 people like this
Posted by Great Idea
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2019 at 4:51 pm

@Resident wrote:

The first is that although they do have more experience than I probably do in what services are available to them, I doubt very much that any of the things they are able to vote on will make very much to them because by the time they come into effect, these particular 16 and 17 year olds have probably graduated and will not make a difference to their school careers.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

@Resident, surely you can't believe this? Would you also favor denying voting rights to those over 90 because they will likely be gone before anything they care about actually makes a difference.

Let's face it, 18 is an arbitrary age. There are some 10 year olds who know much more about local and world affairs than 40 year olds. In GENERAL, 16-17 year olds will know less about world affairs than older people but I think for things like school and local issues, they know more than the average person. Granted, they will likely bring a different perspective than adults, but isn't that the point.

Think of this proposal like a driving learner's permit, where students can get some experience voting before they turn 18. I think a more engaged and interested electorate is a great thing.

Kudos to the students who are pushing this.


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