SERENA LIN (Editor in Chief)
Proposition 18 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, as long as they would be 18 by the general election. Not only would it give 17-year olds the ability to choose presidential candidates, it would also open district attorney or city council elections to them. In rare cases, it would even allow 17-year olds to vote in special elections for Congress caused by the death or resignation of a member of Congress. However, the true value of Prop 18 lies in the fact that it would benefit not just politically active 17-year olds, but the future of civic engagement.
Passing Proposition 18 would give 17-year olds voices on issues that concern them the most, such as education or future opportunities in the workforce. In doing so, it prepares young soon-to-be voters to be aware of realistic issues that can either stem from problematic policies or be solved by helpful ones. An example of this could be the absurd cost of higher education. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 19.7 million students are expected to enroll in college in 2020, and most of those students will have to, in some way or form, take out extravagant loans to afford college. However, if 17-year olds were given the ability to vote for candidates, their concerns over educational debt would be better heard by policymakers and create the potential for affordable education. Student debt is just one issue out of plenty that affect 17-year olds that they should be able to speak up about. Passing Proposition 18 gives them the ability to do just that.
The most important reason why Proposition 18 is so beneficial is the simple fact that it could potentially strengthen one of the greatest weaknesses of American elections – low voter turnout. Proposition 18 could ensure a future of civic engagement as younger voters’ election turnout is usually low compared to the turnout of older voters. In fact, since World War II, only seven elections generated a turnout of over 60%. However, according to Psychology Today, there is research that suggests the habit of voting is benefitted by starting early. In other words, allowing younger citizens to vote earlier on, makes them more likely to continue voting in the future. The prospect of strengthening historically weak voter turnout alone is worth passing Proposition 18.
Proposition 18 has the ability to educate, engage and empower young voters. By giving them voices, 17-year olds build the life-long habit of voting that will benefit the future of civic engagement.