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San Diego Assemblywoman Wants 16-Year-Olds To Vote

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 25, 2015.
Associated Press
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 25, 2015.

San Diego Assemblywoman Wants 16-Year-Olds To Vote
Lorena Gonzalez' Constitutional AmendmentGUEST:Lorena Gonzalez, Assemblywoman, 80th District

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Do you remember who you voted for for a community college board seat? You know the issues involved in school board elections? Many adult voters may not be familiar with those races, but Lorena Gonzalez knows who is. She introduces a state amendment that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez joins us now. Welcome to the show. Hello Maureen. How are you? Back I am well, thank you. What is your policy for allowing students to vote on this? If you look at these related position, nothing affects their life's more heavily than a school community college board. They let this every single day. We know that six-year-old science tells us six-year-olds are adept to make these types of decisions the same way an 18-year-old is. Yet they have no voice in the process of my boards that are affecting their everyday life. What you think the younger voters would bring to the process? They are living the experience. Some of this is drawn right out of my personal life. I watched as my daughter, when she was 16 during those terrible times of pink slips and cuts at the local school district -- her and her friends, I believe 250 of them staged a protest. They were very frustrated by the fact that all these discussions were happening and they were adult discussions with teachers, school boards, labor unions, but very little input by the people who would be most affected, the students themselves. She said we deserve more than a few more -- minutes of public comment. We deserve accountability folks that are elected. Loretta, many would say students at that age don't have the ability to make that type a decision. That is not true. There have been studies when 16-year-olds given information and allowed to process through the information and make a decision are as able to do that as an 18-year-old, or at 22-year-old. It's funny, 16-year-olds are more immature, the brain portion of the brain is making tough decisions like impulse decisions, things involved with driving for example. Yet we've accepted that 16-year-olds should be able to drive. Well I have that ability to ask tough questions and decide what direction they would like to go. I think we should grant them that. And he thought that perhaps there's a possibility for the candidates of these positions would try to pander to students to win their votes? I hope they would. The students might -- it might need something different for students. That means we are going to provide adequate textbooks or maybe 16-year-olds come and see me in my office for air-conditioning in their office of classroom or trees on their campus. These are things that are affecting their everyday life and they know are issues. They contribute to the outcomes of school. My dream would be that school board members or candidates feel like they have to go engage young people at their school place about real issues, school issues. I think that would be a positive experience. One of the unspoken things, especially in my district and throughout the state, we have a lot of decisions being made by folks. But they are a lot of -- there are a lot of parents of students who are not allowed to vote. Many of them are not citizens and qualify develop. Yet their children could represent themselves. They work, they pay taxes, and they are in the school districts being affected. As I asked in the opening of the segment, is there any way to make information on these elections more general -- more available to the general public? I often don't know much about the representatives running for those? I think it takes well for all voters to figure out what's at stake. Of this is a whole different segment. I did my master's thesis on voting decisions and independent voters and what cues we use. That is a product of life unfortunately there is so much information out there. It's hard to weed through. Our ballots are longer and longer every year. We're having to make more decisions. The same could be said about judges;, we are just voting on judges we know very little about. So like so many of my proposals at the immediate and definite when we are another for 16 or ¬17 being able to vote. I get a lot of positive feedback from young people, students, teachers. Some of my colleagues who work with that age group are very positive about it. There are others who are skeptical. I understand if you haven't had a 16-year-old in a while or maybe you do have a 16-year-old who isn't quite ready, I can see where that is problematic. And that is true when you think about voting at eight team to. It's a discussion I want to have. We should have a discussion about who is making the decisions at the local level about how money is being spent, where it is being spent, what resources are going into it, and what we can do to better education in the public schools. All of that would be achieved by allowing young people to vote. What is the process of amending the Constitution can be done by putting it on the ballot It can be. It will not be easy and it will not be a when your feet. It would require -- would not be a two-year feet. It would go on to the ballot in 2018. If I can -- if I can't get a majority in the next two years, I would have to work with allies to get signatures put directly onto the ballot. It has to go to the vote of the people. We have to discuss it before it gets to that point. Lorena, I read that you think that allowing people to vote in some races while they are in their Midshipman teens might have a positive effect on voter turnout in the long run. I do. That is based on evidence. Yet -- other countries allow younger voters to vote. The younger someone is allowed to vote, the chances are that they will be a lifelong voter. The great thing about 16 as opposed to 18 is all the young people are in the same spot. -- They are at home. They are in high school. We know where these voters are. At eight team, it's -- 18 it's a really tough spot because some of the more college, some of them are in jobs. There are scenarios that existed 18 that do not exist at 16. This helps us teach them how to vote, when devote, how to register, how to process information. It could increase long-term voting rights. Been speaking with assembly member Lorena Gonzalez. Thank you so much . Thank you.

A bill authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would amend California's Constitution to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to cast ballots in school district and community college board elections.

These offices, Gonzalez said, impact the lives of youth the most.

“They live this every single day,” Gonzalez told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday.

Currently, students must rely on their parents to vote. Many students, who are citizens, have parents who are not and who therefore cannot vote at all, Gonzalez said.

On whether 16-year-olds are knowledgeable enough to vote, Gonzalez said, "I think they're mature enough and they have firsthand experience of what's going on in schools - they should have a voice in it. The decisions that are made at local school boards and community college boards are affecting them probably more than anything else."

Another argument Gonzalez advances in favor of the amendment is that lowering the voting age for some races will lead to lifelong civic engagement and strong voting habits.

Kim Alexander, head of the California Voter Foundation, agrees with Gonzalez' premise. But Jon Fleishman, a conservative blogger, was quoted in the Sacramento Bee as saying, "I think somebody at the age of 16 years old is really a child, not an adult. This is not an age at which you’re ready to be making weighty decisions about public policy.”

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