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Effort to lower voting age in Palo Alto faces its biggest obstacle: A City Council on vacation

Original post made on Jul 1, 2020

Proponents of lowering the voting age in Palo Alto argue that it would improve turnout, strengthen democracy and enhance civic engagement.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 1, 2020, 9:55 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:12 am

Bad idea .....

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2020 at 11:19 am

The human brain doesn't complete its development -- and the human mind doesn't reach emotional maturity -- until about the age of 25, according to the latest scientific research. Everyone who has a child, or has ever been one, already knew this from experience.

I'd be in favor of raising the voting age to at least 21.

Posted by Not a good idea
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2020 at 12:20 pm

This would be a group that is easily lead, not experienced or thoughtful enough to make nuanced decisions and likely to be influenced to an extreme degree by peers. Adults seem to barely be able to handle voting, now we want children to do it? Agree with above, Bad Idea!

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:44 pm

16 year olds may be absolutely convinced that they have sufficient wisdom and judgement and thus should be allowed to vote, in reality there is no way a 16 year old can have the knowledge and background about many issues which on the surface may seem simple or clear cut but are often much more complex with dimensions and impacts that are not obvious without prior lived experience. Of course, that could be said for voters of any age, but why add to that pool of uninformed voters when all a 16 year old has to do is wait for two years. If 16 year olds can't admit that they may not have yet acquired enough adult knowledge to make informed judgements and do not have the patience to wait for two years, that in itself appears to be an indication that the voting age should not be lowered.

In particular, when the city council had a full agenda containing urgent and truly serious decisions worth millions of dollars before them with a huge impact on residents of all ages, all those who decided to speak on zoom, all parroting the same words, rather than have one person read a letter they had all signed, speaks volumes about both their knowledge and judgement.

Posted by Respect
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 1, 2020 at 2:52 pm

While I am still forming an opinion on this issue, given where it is right now, I would implore this group to put energy right now into ensuring that young people who CAN vote across the country RIGHT NOW will be able to vote in November and will vote.

Young people get categorized as a group that doesn't vote, and because of that, when they protest, it doesn't create the change they would otherwise hope for. If young people can mobilize and show that they CAN get out the vote this year, it would change everything. We have been here before with youth energized and it didn't translate to voting.

Although inertia is a problem with young voters, and a lack of life experience makes many of them perennially susceptible to arguments that their vote doesn't count or that it doesn't matter who they vote for, there are significant structural hurdles for young people that need the energy of young people to change.

18-year-olds may just be starting college, new jobs, or otherwise moving away from home, including a move to a new state. It can be very challenging to understand where they are even registered to vote, ensuring they can register and by when, ensuring they know the rules which are different from locality to locality and aren't always easy or clear in the ways that are relevant to young people. Throw in the challenges of adapting to going to college for the first time or polling places that aren't near them, or new and more challenging weather (for students from California), varying state laws around residency, and you more than explain the low youth turnout despite energy to vote.

Now throw in Covid and so much uncertainty around where students will be in the fall, and it's a recipe for record low young-person turnout and a crushing narrative that the protests are shallow and that young people don't really care enough to vote no matter what.

The youth can solve this problem for the 18-year-olds, and later for themselves (and they should because adults are not going to, some of them are trying to suppress their vote). 16- and 17-year-olds can organize nationally and local groups adopt colleges nearby each group to ensure there are polling places AT colleges if there will be students there in the fall, volunteering as poll workers. You can usually be a poll worker at age 16 or 17.

They power they will get at that age in society will change drastically if they can show up this fall, and that will require giving them help to overcome these challenges. Another challenge is helping young people who may be moving between states because of out-of-state college or move to know where they should register and to register them, and there are millions of them. And helping young people who have never voted to understand better the details relevant to them so they can vote.

I was a student at one of the illustrious colleges in Cambridge, MA, and braved a sleet storm (and got sick from) to go vote. My education had not included the details of voting in Massachusetts, and I found myself after a long line in a voting booth with a lengthy ballot of seemingly important mostly local issues I had no prior information about, wondering whether my vote would count if I didn't vote for all the races. That's not something you can just know from taking civics in school. And to be honest, I didn't have a clear idea of primary versus general election. While I understood all the book-learning stuff about balance of powers between the three branches of federal government, I had no cognizance of what that really meant in Washington at that moment (just even the balance of power in Congress) and how important Congressional races were to national policy and presidential oversight, or how important state races were to my daily life.

Given the timing of what's happened with this initiative, I would implore the young people involved here to look at how they can dramatically improve the voter turnout of young people, especially with the unique challenges of a Covid fall. (I highly recommend a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard as good food for thought. If you want to change things, you have to make a path.)

When the general election is over, if they want to pursue getting the vote for younger people, I would highly recommend that they do the following first:
1) Create a City Charter Amendment to change our local election to be more fair. Talk to the San Francisco election commission about their system, and why they changed from one in which the City attorney wrote the ballot "impartial" analysis for local elections and people with certain elected experience had priority in ballot statements to one that is more democratic and fair, and in which all stakeholders are involved in generating a more impartial ballot. If the young people put all that work into getting something on the ballot, it will not go well if the City Attorney or staff are against it, because right now, they control the slant of the "impartial" ballot language, and most people don't even question where that language comes from.

SF is a charter city like Palo Alto, and their election code is quite simple and easy to adapt to Palo Alto's charter, but it helps to understand from them the motivation for the changes and why they have been beneficial. The vote may have been close for 16 year olds there, but it won't be similar here unless the students change our election code to be more fair like SF's. If you can achieve this, whether you are successful or not, I can guarantee young people this is a ticket-to-a-great-college project (just being able to understand and articulate it would be a great asset on a college application). Beyond that, it would make local politics far more above board, and more likely for students to get future initiatives through if the population is for them.

2) Along with changing the election code to be more fair in the City Charter, students can then bring forward a charter amendment to the portion of the charter that establishes the local school district, and give the community the power of referendum and initiative in school district matters. It shouldn't be easy to change a policy of the school board or leadership, but it should at least be possible. As it is, there are no checks and balances, not even as much as there are in PTA bylaws, and certainly not as much as there are in any other level of government.

Let's look at one hypothetical situation. There is a lot of money in textbooks, and what if a local official takes a bribe from a textbook manufacturer under the table to buy something the majority of the families are against? As it is, the community can complain all it wants, the circumstances enable the leadership to be deceitful. But if a vast majority of the community that disagrees with a decision has the power to overturn it, as they do at the City level when citizens disagree with a city council ordinance, or has to power to put forward initiatives to make changes and the community has the power to decide, then district leadership has to be far more answerable to the community from the getgo and would be less likely to engage in that kind of behavior. And if they do, they can be overruled. It shouldn't be easy to make such changes, but it should be possible, just like it is at the city and state level. I think it would be easier for students 16 and 17 to get the power to vote and be active in such matters, especially since they directly concern them.

3) With the groundwork laid from the above, students would be in a better position to bring forward an initiative to lower the local voting age and be successful. Students, I hope you understand that if you can't get the City Council to adopt your proposal, you can bring an initiative yourselves to the ballot and let voters decide. But your chances of success are limited if you don't accomplish #1 first.

I do think the far more important subject of youth energy right now, that eclipses everything else, should be in how to ensure that the 18-24 year old age group can and does vote in the next election, and can overcome the usual and (this year) unusual hurdles of the election this fall. The change in the power you have as groups of young people contacting elected officials if you can achieve this will be palpable.

Posted by Ranked Choice Voting
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:04 pm

A much more important and relevant change is to move to Ranked Choice Voting.

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Ranked choice voting is a great idea.

I'd be in favor of a residency requirement for all elected officials and senior city manager staff, as well. Our servants seem to be serving other masters, such as corporations and developers.

Posted by Ha, nice try, Democrats
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:28 pm

Gen Z (up to age 23) and Millenials (24 to 39) want to lower the voting age because they know the younger generation will ignorantly vote for socialism without knowing the history of socialist countries that were once rich but now poor. It's the participation trophy generations — no need to work, the government and wealthy will support you just like Mom & Dad supported you and made life fair. Pinatas? No, it's not fair that some kids get more candy than others, split it up evenly. Two generations of wimps who don't know how to compete or have failed.

"Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation . . .one in four are Hispanic.

Still, when it comes to their views on key social and policy issues, they look very much like Millennials. Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the fall of 2018 among Americans ages 13 and older found that, similar to Millennials, Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.

Gen Zers are slightly less likely than Millennials to be immigrants: 6% were born outside of the U.S., compared with 7% of Millennials at the same age. But they are more likely to be the children of immigrants: 22% of Gen Zers have at least one immigrant parent (compared with 14% of Millennials). Even as immigration flows into the U.S. have diminished in recent years, new immigrants will join the ranks of Gen Z in the years to come. As a result, this generation is projected to become majority nonwhite by 2026, according to Census Bureau projections." Web Link

Posted by Respect
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:40 pm

One of many articles on attempts to suppress college-age voting. I want this group to realize that you can do something about that:
Web Link

Posted by Respect
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 1, 2020 at 3:45 pm

@Ranked choice,
For board member and city council races, ranked choice is also an important change. But making that change will require citizens to bring forward a charter amendment. Find language from other charters who have a track record of having done and lived with the change. Then adopt something similar for Palo Alto.

Charter amendments have to be voted on. The city attorney writes the "impartial" ballot language, and we only get one voice (preference goes to previous office holders) in the ballot argument. This means that if city staff is against it, the ballot will be biased and it will probably lose. That is the single most important thing that has to be fixed first to ensure any subsequent elections are the will of the people.

Fix that, then bring forward an initiative for rank choice voting. Agree, that's crucial for races that aren't two-way.

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:08 pm

@ respect ... TMI I couldn't get through he first three paragraphs, but I managed to read the whole post. And what do you mean by usual and unusual (this year) ?

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:10 pm

16 year old SJWs. That's what this is about. Wait till they get older and enter the real world. LMAO.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2020 at 6:22 pm

I am a huge proponent of this measure, and have supported lowering the voting age to 16 for decades. I spent some time speaking with the Palo Alto Vote16 leadership a couple weeks. Here is the video interview:

Web Link

There is zero reason to oppose putting Vote16 on the ballot and letting voters decide.

Remember, all that Palo Alto Vote16 is asking right now is that the measure be on the BALLOT, not that it be passed. Why not let the voters decide whether or not the voting age should be 16 for elected public offices in Palo Alto, which right now includes only the City Council and nothing else? Can't the City Council incumbents recognize that refusing to allow the measure to go to public vote creates the perception of conflict of interest, or somehow gaming their reelection (Not that this is their motive -- I honestly have no idea what their motives are! All I know is that they refused to put the matter on the agenda and vote on it, even though they had ample opportunities to do so.)

If the voting public does not want that, the measure will lose. Opposing the measure is not a valid reason to keep it off the ballot. If the majority of Palo Altans want it, it will and should pass. So I beg you to recognize this for what it is: a request for a measure to be put on the ballot, not a request for the change itself to be made.

That said, I believe strongly that there are many good reasons to support Vote16 once we have the ability to do so - which I truly hope is in November.

If you were listening to the City Council meetings on June 22 and June 23, you may have heard the dozens of young adults, and not-young adult advocates call into the meeting with articulate, well-researched arguments for the validity of this initiative, which has passed in many other cities across the country.

What I think often is missed, however, is the importance of lowering the voting age to 16 as our biggest weapon against the huge problem of the purging of voter rolls nationally, especially because the voter purges have had disparate impact on the most vulnerable communities, including people of color, and have been waged, according to many credible sources, by one political party against the other.

Here is how lowering the voting age counteracts voter purging. 16 and 17 year olds are generally still in high school, and while in high school, teenagers from vulnerable communities are provided essential services including meals and school supplies, as well as crucial support systems including counseling and mental health services. For these reasons, while in high school, if allowed to vote and especially if accompanied by an enhanced high school civics curriculum, the vast majority of these young voters WILL vote.

Without Vote16, a large majority of vulnerable high school students have a much harder time eating once they lose school meals. They also often lose their primary address, in addition to sometimes losing their homes. Lacking the supports, supplies, and meals that high school had provided, and facing uncertain job markets, especially for those who cannot afford college, these young adults often become lost as voters altogether. Allowing these young adults to register to vote, and actually vote their first elections while still in high school creates voting rolls with far more robust voters who are harder to purge.

But of course, at the end of the day, it shouldn't matter whether the City Council agrees with my arguments or not. This is a standard measure that has been put on dozens of other ballots. We are Palo Alto, one of the most educated, and historically one of the most entrepreneurial communities in our country, and we should not lag behind other cities in putting to democratic vote whether or not voters want the voting age moved to 16. It's democracy - let the people decide!

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 1, 2020 at 7:19 pm

Ummmm no

Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2020 at 7:19 pm

No one should be voting until they are living independently and paying taxes. This idea is representation without taxation, which is just as wrong as its opposite.

And although its proponents are clearly trying to stack the votes in favor of socialist causes, note that the younger teens are much, much more conservative than the 20somethings we have now. Recall that the Covington kids who the left claimed were trying to block the "Native American Elder", that turned out to be a complete fabrication (CNN alone paid him $25M and they weren't the only ones he sued), were all wearing MAGA hats. That 13 year old is now 15 and will be 16 next year.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 1, 2020 at 10:12 pm

Lowering the voting age is a bad idea. Who ever is pushing for this is probably thinking that they can be "guided" into voting in a specific manner. I went to one event in Mountain View and the young Socialist had a table - happy as puppies - everything is free. When I asked where the money was coming from they said there is plenty of money - not to worry.
That is what Gavin Newsom used to think - plenty of money - not to worry. Do you think that has changed? Portions of the state burning down, potions of the state sick and dying, portions of the state who will not vote for any tax increases. It is called Reality. A reality that no one could ever have imagined. We need adults in the room right now that can project long term cause and effect and risk management. And that is not young voters who are impressionable.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 2, 2020 at 11:47 am

It showed poor judgment by Vote16 to try to force this through with no time for deliberation in the middle of health and financial crises. The earliest the 16s would be able to vote would be the CC election of 2022. There is plenty of time to consider this carefully.

If the 16s want us to take them seriously, they need to focus on their education in these unpredictable times and show they are making the best out of distance learning.

Posted by Nessa Lee
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 2, 2020 at 7:38 pm

Believe what you will, but most 16 year olds are not ignorant enough to think they know absolutely everything about the government and its policies. It's definitely true that the prefrontal cortex doesn't finish maturing until 25 — Vote16 would have to be given careful thought before moving in either direction — but seeing as how there's many older residents here still refusing to wear a mask or keeping in their antiquated beliefs about race or gender tells me that allowing 16-year-olds won't diminish our collective intelligence all that much anyway.

>> 16 year old SJWs. That's what this is about. Wait till they get older and enter the real world. LMAO.

Keep in mind we're not talking about the national election here. While I remain neutral on Vote16, it seems like those who call our teens "SJWs" just don't like hearing about social issues on a daily basis. Sure, some of them can be genuinely uninformed, but that applies to every age group and younger people are factually more likely to remain open-minded when presented with new information. Still hesitant in some aspects to grant them voting power but it probably won't be as bad as you all think.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 2, 2020 at 7:58 pm

There's a reason why rental car companies don't rent to people younger than 25...

Posted by vote13
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 2, 2020 at 8:20 pm

Come one, teenagers know everything. The voting age should obviously be lowered to 13.

Posted by Treehugger Power
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2020 at 11:35 am

I am a advocate for lowering the Voting age to 12 in honor of Tamir Rice killed at age 12 by the Cleveland Police. I made a video on my youtube channel Age 12 to Vote. Evolve the Vote that supports the cause!

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2020 at 5:50 pm

16 year-olds wallow in social discussion - that is what happens at that age. They are trying to find out where they fit in as they are becoming adults - what will their life be like? What kind of job will they have? However once a person becomes an adult and has a job then they have to make decisions concerning their life. Earning money and being on your own is different ballgame. Getting a job means that you have to focus on the relationships you have with your workers and your company. And as you start a family you have to make more decisions as to how the city you live in exercises it's policies concerning how people function within the city - the rules and regulations.
Most of the time is trial and error - should not be voting at 16 - should be focusing on how they fit into the existing set of rules and regulations.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Like the (unfortunately successful) effort to change the names of our middle schools, this smells like an effort cooked up by some tiger parents to augment a college transcript so they can pay $100,000 to go to an Ivy League school. Or Stanford.

Posted by It’s all a hoax
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jul 7, 2020 at 5:31 pm

@Me 2,

Of course, everything these students do are for college applications because colleges demand leadership roles. Who really thinks anyone wants to teach soccer to kids or any kiddie camp they create? How many PAUSD students go to elite colleges and become elementary school teachers? How many continue their “leadership positions” and volunteer work post college? The Ivy Leagues are no guarantee of success; there’s always the bottom half. Malcolm Gladwell states that the most successful are the top percentage in any college, not those in the lower half of the Ivy League colleges. The Top 20 colleges every year are wealthy, private universities. It’s about white wealth and white networking, not a person’s potential. Most of us don’t fit that mold and it’s ludicrous to try. Hunter Biden has a JD from Yale. Who thinks he is qualified? Chelsea Clinton earns $6 million per year sitting on a board, doing nothing. There are plenty of Ivy League graduates in Palo Alto and most are unimpressive.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2020 at 5:34 pm

I'm not opposed to the proposal, but, I need more information before I can say that I'm in favor of it.

I would like to see evidence that "it would improve turnout, strengthen democracy and enhance civic engagement".

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