Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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State of California
Proposition 18 — Voting Rights for 17-Year-Olds Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment - Majority Approval Required

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AMENDS CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION TO PERMIT 17-YEAR-OLDS TO VOTE IN PRIMARY AND SPECIAL ELECTIONS IF THEY WILL TURN 18 BY THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION AND BE OTHERWISE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Fiscal Impact: Increased statewide county costs likely between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $1 million every two years. Increased one-time costs to the state of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Put on the Ballot by the Legislature

What is this proposal?

Easy Voter Guide — Summary for new and busy voters

Information provided by The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

The way it is now

17-year-olds who are U.S. citizens can pre-register to vote in California. They can only vote if they have turned 18 by election day. 

What if it passes?

Prop 18 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections or special elections if they will be 18 years old by the general election in November.

Budget effect

Prop 18 would increase the number of people who could vote. County election offices would need to spend more money sending out voter information and counting ballots. For each election cycle, Prop 18 would cost up to $1 million statewide. The state would also need to update voter registration systems. This would cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

People FOR say

  • Allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections will help to increase voter participation.
  • If someone will be 18 years old by the general election, they should be allowed to help choose candidates on the November ballot.

People AGAINST say

  • 17-year-olds are not legally adults; they are not mature enough to make important decisions.
  • High school teachers and counselors will be able to influence the way that 17-year-olds vote. 

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

The Question

Should 17-year-olds who will be 18 by a general election be allowed to vote in the primary and special elections in that election cycle?

The Situation

In even-numbered years, California holds two statewide elections—the primary and the general election. In the primary election, voters determine which candidates will compete in the general election. In the general election, voters determine which candidates will win elective office. Statewide ballot measures may also be considered at both of these elections. In addition, there are special elections to fill vacancies, and local government elections to elect local office holders and consider local ballot measures.

In California, in order to vote, an individual must be at least 18 years old at the time of an election. A person may pre-register to vote at 16 years of age, and then they are automatically a registered voter when they turn 18 years old.

The Proposal

Prop 18 would allow certain 17-year-old citizens to vote. If a person is 17 years old and will be 18 years old by the next general election, they will be able to vote in the primary election and any special elections which occur prior to the next general election. Any registered voter may run for elective office, so such 17-year-olds could run for elective office if they meet all other existing eligibility requirements for such elective office. 

Fiscal effect

Prop 18 would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for counties across California every two-year election cycle to pay for the extra voting materials and time the election officials will need to be working. The State would have to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in support for this idea, including updating voter registration systems. This is less than 1% of the state’s general funding budget.

Supporters say

  • Prop 18 will allow 17-18 year-olds to participate in a full election cycle.
  • It will boost the number of youth who actually vote. 17 and 18 year-olds are heavily affected by policies so they should be able to vote on those policies.
  • When 17-year-olds can’t vote in the primary it discourages them from voting in the general when they are 18 because they didn’t pick the candidates that are on the ballot.
  • Encourages young people to be involved in the lifelong journey of voting -- one of the most essential factors in democracy.

Opponents say

  • Allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries on tax issues and debt issuance is not right because they have not paid taxes--they will be biased by who influences them.
  • 17-year-olds are too young to vote and need more life experience before they are ready.
  • 17-year-olds’ brains are not fully developed in the logic and reasoning portion so they would just be making bad decisions.
  • Schools would persuade 17-year-olds to vote one side or the other by putting up posters or having teachers advocate for certain policies.
  • Only 18 other states allow 17-year-olds to vote.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

A YES vote on this measure means: Eligible 17-year-olds who will be 18 years old by the time of the next general election may vote in the primary election and any special elections preceding the general election.

NO vote means

A NO vote on this measure means: No one younger than 18 years of age may vote in any election.

Summary

Source: California Attorney General - Official Voter Information Guide p. 34

OFFICIAL TITLE AND SUMMARY 
PREPARED BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

PROPOSITION 18.
AMENDS CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION TO PERMIT 17-YEAR-OLDS TO VOTE IN PRIMARY AND SPECIAL ELECTIONS IF THEY WILL TURN 18 BY THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION AND BE OTHERWISE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. LEGISLATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

  • The California Constitution currently permits individuals who are at least 18 years old on the date of an election to vote in that election.
  • Amends constitution to permit 17-year-olds who will be at least 18 years old and otherwise eligible to vote at the time of the next general election to vote in any primary or special election that occurs before the next general election. 

SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:

  • Increased costs for counties, likely between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $1 million every two years, to send and process voting materials to eligible registered 17-year-olds.
  • Increased one-time costs to the state in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to update existing voter registration systems. 

FINAL VOTES CAST BY THE LEGISLATURE ON ACA 4 (PROPOSITION 18)
(RESOLUTION CHAPTER 30, STATUTES OF 2020)

Senate: Ayes 31 Noes 7
Assembly: Ayes 56 Noes 13

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=34

Background

Source: California Legislative Analyst's Office - Official Voter Information Guide pp. 34-35

BACKGROUND

Elections in California. In even-numbered years, California holds two statewide elections—the primary and the general elections. At each of these elections voters (1) either nominate or elect candidates to state and federal offices and (2) consider statewide ballot measures. At the primary election, which is held in the spring, voters determine which candidates will compete for elective office at the general election. At the general election in November, voters determine who wins elective offices. Statewide ballot measures can be considered in both the primary and general elections. Outside of this two-year cycle, the Governor may call a special election to fill vacancies in state elective offices or vacancies in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to state elections, local governments hold elections for voters to elect local office holders and to consider local ballot measures. Typically, local elections occur at the same time as state elections.

Election Administration in California. County election officials administer the vast majority of elections in California. As part of this work, these officials keep lists of registered voters and provide voting materials to registered voters, such as ballots and other voter information. Some state agencies also have voting-related responsibilities. For example, the Secretary of State oversees elections, which includes providing voter registration cards and operating an electronic voter registration system.

Right to Vote in California. A person generally may register and vote in California if the person is a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old and a resident of the state. State law prohibits some people from voting, including those who are in prison or on parole. (Under current law, people who are registered to vote can run for elective offices so long as they meet all other existing eligibility requirements.) 

Pre-Registration to Vote in California. A person generally may pre-register to vote in California if the person is a U.S. citizen and is either 16 or 17 years old. (State law prohibits some people from pre-registering to vote, including those who are in prison or on parole.) When a person is pre-registered to vote, they automatically become registered to vote when they turn 18 years old. As of June 29, 2020, there are about 108,000 17-year-olds pre-registered to vote in California.

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=34

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Source: California Legislative Analyst's Office - Official Voter Information Guide p. 35

PROPOSAL

Allows Some 17 Year Old Citizens to Vote.  The measure would allow eligible 17-year-olds who will be 18 years old by the November date of the next general election to vote. This means that these 17-year-olds could vote in any special election or primary election that occurs before the next general election. (Because current state law allows registered voters to run for elective office, this measure would result in 17-year-olds who turn 18 by the next general election to do so as well, if they meet all other existing eligibility requirements for elective office.)  

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=35

Financial effect

Source: California Legislative Analyst's Office - Official Voter Information Guide p. 34

FISCAL EFFECTS

Minor Costs for County Election Officials. This measure would increase the number of people eligible to vote in primary and special elections. This would increase work for county election officials. Election officials would send and process voting materials to eligible registered 17-year-olds in the primary and any special elections preceding the general election. The cost of this increased work would depend on the number of eligible 17-year-olds who register to vote before the primary and special elections. This increased work could increase statewide county costs in each two-year election cycle likely between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $1 million.

Minor One-Time State Costs. This measure would create one-time work for the state to update existing voter registration systems. The one-time state costs for this work likely would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is less than 1 percent of current state General Fund spending. 

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=34

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

Proposition 18 will allow first-time voters to participate in a full election cycle provided that they are 18 by the time of the general election. This measure is needed to boost youth civic engagement in our elections and help create more lifelong participants in the most fundamental process of democracy.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR:
Assemblymember Kevin Mullin
info@caprop18.com
CAprop18.com

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide p. 10

Arguments FOR

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency.  

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF PROPOSITION 18

Proposition 18 will allow those who will be 18 years of age by the time of the general election to participate in the primary election of that year if they are 17 at the time of the primary. This important election reform will not only allow first-time voters to participate in the full election cycle, but also has the potential to boost youth participation in our elections.

We need youth voices to be represented at the ballot box. Allowing some 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if, and only if, they will be 18 by the time of the general election is a simple way to amplify the voices of young voters throughout California and will lead to a more inclusive election process for our state overall.

California is behind the curve when it comes to this issue. Nearly half of states in the U.S. already allow 17-year-olds to participate in primaries and caucuses. If an individual plans to participate in the general election as a first-time voter, it is only reasonable that they be afforded the opportunity to shape the choices that appear on the general election ballot by participating in the primary. Proposition 18 links this 17-year-old participation to the age of majority by requiring that the individual be 18 by the time of the general election.

According to research conducted by the California Civic Engagement Project, in the 2020 primary election in California, youth voters (those aged between 18 and 24) made up 14.5% of the population eligible to vote, however only about 6% of those who actually voted in the election. Youth are extremely underrepresented in our electoral process despite the fact that they are heavily impacted by the policies created by those elected.

Not only does research indicate that the youth population has the lowest turnout levels out of any age demographic, but studies also show that voting is habit-forming—once an individual votes in an election, they are more likely to do so again. Early involvement in the electoral process for first-time voters should be a high priority for this reason.

Proposition 18 is an opportunity to empower California’s youngest voters and encourage them to become life-long participants in the most fundamental act of democracy. Please support Proposition 18.

KEVIN MULLIN, Assemblymember
CA Assembly District 22

EVAN LOW, Assemblymember
CA Assembly District 28 

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=36

 

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide

Arguments AGAINST

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

Science and legal consistency demand a NO vote on Proposition 18. Law prohibits younger teens from smoking, drinking and even tanning because research shows the logic and reasoning area of their brains is not fully developed. Those abilities are vital to responsible voting. We must not lower the voting age.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AGAINST:
Ruth Weiss, Election Integrity Project California
27943 Seco Canyon Rd. #521
Santa Clarita, CA 91350
(661) 313-5251
info@eip-ca.com
www.eip-ca.com

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide p. 10

Arguments AGAINST

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

ARGUMENT AGAINST PROPOSITION 18 

"Many tax increases and bond debt measures are decided on primary and special election ballots. That’s why only adults should vote."—Jon Coupal, President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association 

17-year-olds ARE NOT LEGALLY ADULTS

Both the federal and California governments have set the age of legal responsibility at 18. In California, an individual even one day younger than 18 may not enter into a legal contract, or even use a tanning salon. Seventeen-year-olds cannot even participate in a school field trip without a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian.

California law puts extra rules and restrictions on driver licenses of l6- and 17-year-olds because of concerns about maturity and judgment. The license restrictions disappear exactly on the 18th birthday, not before.

California law reflects the scientific evidence that age-related brain development is connected to the ability to reason, analyze and comprehend cause-and-effect. The agreed-upon age of reason, both statewide and nationally, is 18.

17-year-olds ARE CAPTIVE AUDIENCES IN SCHOOL

Voters deserve to hear all sides of an issue to make an informed choice. Most 17-year-olds are still in high school, dependent on teachers for grades and important recommendation letters vital to their future. They are a captive audience five days a week, with a strong incentive to do whatever teachers and counselors recommend.

California’s primary ballot often includes school tax and bond measures for voter approval. Unlike adult voters, 17-year-olds who are still in high school are likely to hear only one side of these issues. For example, in 2019, the Los Angeles Unified School District engaged in an "informational" campaign to pass a proposed tax increase, Measure EE, in a special election. Schools posted huge banners on campus, handed out flyers and literature for students to take home, and even distributed sample social media posts in an effort to influence students and their families.

If 17-year-olds are allowed to vote in primary and special elections, perhaps even filling out a mail-in ballot right in the classroom, these students could provide the margin to approve new debt and taxes that will greatly burden their parents and all taxpayers. 

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IS OPEN TO ALL; VOTING IS DIFFERENT

Everyone has the right to express an opinion, advocate on issues, organize like-minded people and volunteer on campaigns. The right to vote, however, is reserved for citizens who are state residents, who are not felons in prison, and who are at least 18 years of age on Election Day.

Voting is a serious responsibility. In California elections, voters decide who will hold the power to make and enforce laws, whether to approve new debt that taxpayers will have to pay, whether to raise taxes, and many other complex issues.

 

Important decisions must be made by voters who are legally adults, not by high school minors.

RUTH WEISS, Co-founder 

Election Integrity Project California

JON COUPAL, President
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

LARRY SAND, Retired Teacher 

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=37

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide

Replies to Arguments FOR

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF PROPOSITION 18

The statement that "nearly half" of the states allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary is dishonest. ONLY 18 ALLOW IT, and their primaries are different from California’s. Because of Propositions 13 and 218, Californians have the right to vote on tax proposals, which are often on the primary ballot. 17-year-olds have virtually no experience with earning a living and paying taxes. Real life experience is vital for voting. The suggestion that it is "only logical" that 17-year-olds should vote in the Primary if they are going to vote in the General is bad reasoning.

Since California's primary has been moved to early March, Proposition 18 would give high-school minors JUST BARELY 17 the right to vote simply because they will turn 18 EIGHT MONTHS LATER.

17-year-olds are minors, for several reasons:

  • Science affirms that the reasoning and logic portion of their brains is NOT BIOLOGICALLY FULLY DEVELOPED.
  • They are a captive audience (5+ hours per day, 5 days per week) to teachers on whom they depend for present and future success, making them very VULNERABLE TO ONE-SIDED INFLUENCE.
  • They have NO REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE. Most have not had to work to support themselves, nor make their own way to pay for taxes, rent, food, etc. They have no frame of reference to make the vital decisions voters make for themselves and all other members of society when they vote.

17-year-olds may be eager to vote, but they are not yet ready. VOTE NO on PROPOSITION 18.

RUTH WEISS, Vice President
Election Integrity Project of California

JON COUPAL, President
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

LARRY SAND, Retired Teacher 

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=36

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Arguments are the opinions of the authors, and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. 

REBUTTAL TO ARGUMENT AGAINST PROPOSITION 18

17-year-olds already work and pay taxes, and they can enlist in the military. If young people at this age are volunteering to put their lives on the line for our country and contributing financially to society, they should be able to participate in a full election cycle the year they turn 18. Prop. 18 allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they are 18 by the general election.

Figuring out how to vote, where to vote, and what is on the ballot is a difficult first-time process. Giving young people time to learn this the year they turn 18 ensures a successful first voting experience. Expanding young people’s opportunity to become civically engaged ensures that our future generations will adopt voting habits early on and take them as they go to college, join the military, or join the workforce.

In the March 2020 primary, which saw the most votes in a California presidential primary ever, only 38% of eligible voters cast a ballot. We have a civic engagement problem, and we need to establish a culture of voting for future generations sooner rather than later. Voting in one election can increase the probability of voting in the next election by over 25%. Issues like the climate crisis, student debt, healthcare, and our economic future will impact young people the most, and it is our responsibility to provide them adequate opportunities to create lifelong voting habits. A vote for Prop. 18 is a vote for our democracy.

MARY CREASMAN, Chief Executive Officer
California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV)

SENATOR RICHARD D. ROTH, Major General USAF (Retired)

SENATOR THOMAS J. UMBERG, Colonel U.S. Army (Retired) 

https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2020/general/pdf/complete-vig.pdf#page=37

— Source: California Secretary of State - Official Voter Information Guide

Read the proposed legislation

Who gave money?

Contributions

Yes on Proposition 18

Total money raised: $1,227,806
Bar graph showing total amount relative to total amount for this entire campaign.

No on Proposition 18

No data currently available.
Bar graph showing total amount relative to total amount for this entire campaign.

Below are the top 10 contributors that gave money to committees supporting or opposing the ballot measures.

Yes on Proposition 18

1
Quillin, Patty
$250,000
2
Committee to Innovate for California's Future, Evan Low Ballot Measure Committee
$230,000
3
California Democratic Party
$89,043
4
California League of Conservation Voters
$60,000
5
Kevin Mullin for Assembly 2020
$50,500
6
Equality California
$49,000
7
California Nurses Association
$30,000
7
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
$30,000
7
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters
$30,000
8
California Association of Realtors
$25,000
8
California Federation of Teachers
$25,000
8
California Federation of Teachers Prop/Ballot Committee
$25,000
8
Edison International
$25,000
8
SEIU Local 2015
$25,000
8
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
$25,000

No on Proposition 18

More information about contributions

Yes on Proposition 18

By State:

California 98.18%
Florida 0.41%
New York 0.33%
District of Columbia 0.30%
Other 0.78%
98.18%

By Size:

Large contributions (99.84%)
Small contributions (0.16%)
99.84%

By Type:

From organizations (77.64%)
From individuals (22.36%)
77.64%22.36%

No on Proposition 18

More information

Videos (6)

— September 9, 2020 KCET
Supports allowing 17-year-old Californians who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primary and special elections. The rationale is to allow those who turn 18 in time to vote in the general election to become engaged earlier in the candidate selection, making them more informed citizens and more likely to turn out to vote in November.
— October 4, 2020 League of Women Voters of San Diego
Ballot measures can sometimes feel like trick questions. We at the League of Women Voters are dedicated to providing non-partisan "prop talks" to help break down each measure. We will present the pros and cons of how these policies will impact your day to day life.
If Proposition 18 passes, it would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the March primary, as long as they turn 18 by the November election.
Si se aprueba la Proposición 18, permitiría a los jóvenes de 17 años votar en las primarias de marzo, siempre y cuando cumplan 18 años antes de las elecciones de noviembre.
— October 12, 2020 League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale
This video covers all 12 Propositions, Measure 18 starts at time: 15:44
— October 18, 2020 League of Women Voters of Southwest Santa Clara Valley

Events (5)

Contact Info

Yes on Proposition 18
Yes on Prop 18
Contact Name:

Assemblymember Kevin Mullin

Email info@caprop18.com
No on Proposition 18
Election Integrity Project California
Contact Name:

Ruth Weiss

Email info@eip-ca.com
Phone: (661) 313-5251
Address:
27943 Seco Canyon Rd. #521
Santa Clarita, CA 91350
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Proposition 18

Organizations (48)

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