The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to place a measure on the November ballot that allows city youth aged 16 and 17 to vote in municipal elections.

This is the not the first time the measure has appeared on ballot as it narrowly lost by 2.8 percent in 2016, but supporters believe that voters will pass the measure this year.

Supporters of the measure, which included the San Francisco Youth Commission, last month discussed the important roles youth have played recent civic engagements. Teen residents have led a number of movements on gun violence, climate change and most recently a youth-led protest against the police killing of George Floyd.

Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay Organizer Alejandro speaks about dismantling capitalism as the main of way to seek justice at Mission High School during the George Floyd solidarity protest in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, June 3, 2020. The protest was youth-led (Aaron Levy-Wolins/SFBay).

Many decisions on the ballot directly affect lives of San Francisco youth, including measures on the criminal justice system, transportation and how tax dollars should be spent. Some youth in their late teens pay taxes, said Sarah Cheung, who sits on the commission representing District 1.

Board President Norman Yee, the main sponsor of the measure, said Tuesday at the board meeting:

“It is essential that young people build a habit of voting as early as possible and continue to participate in our democracy throughout their lives.”

In a letter to the board in support of the measure, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California wrote:

“Sixteen and seventeen year olds are key stakeholders in our democracy: they are active, engaged, and informed participants in civic and political efforts. San Francisco youth are strong community leaders.”

The Controller’s Office said the ballot measure if approved could increase the number of registered voters by up to 1.5 percent if 16- and 17-year olds vote at the same rate as the general population.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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