The proposal, which would have to be approved by voters statewide, would make California the first state to allow 17-year-olds to vote in general elections.
The effort to amend the Golden State’s constitution is being led by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Cupertino, who says California’s young voters are traditionally underrepresented at the polls.
“Our country was founded on resisting taxation without representation, and yet every election cycle, teenagers face this centuries-old disenfranchisement,” Low said in a statement. “Young people are our future. Lowering the voting age will help give them a voice in the democratic process and instill a lifelong habit of voting.”
Low, 33, notes that just 8 percent of eligible California voters aged 18-24 voted in the 2014 general election, and that lowering the voting age will “catch youth at a time when they are still connected to their school, their home and their community.”
California is already one of 11 states that allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote. The state also allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 before the general election.
Constitutional Amendment 10 will require approval by two-thirds of each statehouse chamber in order to place it on the ballot. It is being sponsored by a bipartisan mix of California Millennial Caucus members.
A similar measure to allow 16-year-olds to vote in local San Francisco elections failed last fall.
Assembly Speaker pro tem Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, said the proposal could spark lifelong civic participation.
“If someone can be truly engaged in the voting process through their high school civics class, then we have the opportunity to get more students to cast ballots and start what we hope would be a lifelong habit of civic engagement,” Mullin said in a statement.
Last month, Low introduced a bill to add Election Day to California’s list of observed holidays. State employees would be given an additional paid day off, but observing the holiday would be up to private employers’ discretion.