No on Proposition 18

Teens Lack the Real-World Experience to Guide a Vote

Credit: Celina Garcia

“Almost” does not count in most human activities, and especially not in politics. So, if the right to vote is only when you are 18 years old, then that right does not exist for anybody who is 17-going-on-18, i.e., almost 18 years old.

Passage of Proposition 18 would allow a 17-year-old to participate in primaries and any other elections held during the Election Year if they can prove that they will be 18 by the time of the General Election. In California since the primaries are held approximately eight months before the final election, somebody of age seventeen and four months could vote. One major problem has to do with the effect on Primary Elections. Very simply, 17-year-old youngsters in California have been exposed during their formative years to a most liberal school system, so they have not had a chance to gain much experience beyond the education system. Youngsters at that age are engaged in gaining experience to develop the skills necessary to evaluate complex political issues. We should not be burdening these young people to make fundamental decisions that may have a profound effect on their future as well as the rest of the society.

Consider some specific issues regarding our own election process. The California election system has what is called the top two primary system. That is, regardless of how many candidates are competing for a given position such as Assembly person or State Senator, only the top two vote getters in the primary election can make into the General Election. If a 17-year-old gets a chance to vote, that would certainly bias the top-two system, favoring the most liberal candidates.

In addition to selecting candidates, many primary elections also include financial matters such as school bonds and tax measures. Gaining knowledge on such issues requires a certain amount of lived experience, usually not possible for 17-year-old youngsters. Also, from experience in Primary Elections, the percentage of eligible voters who vote is low, so a large number of 17-year-old voters might allow high-school youngsters to decide such important issues for the rest of the population. These minors cannot effectively represent the general population. As a matter of fact, this proposition should have been created to reflect reality and recognize an increase in the age for voting so as to allow young voters time to gain enough experience to judge whether or not the doctrines inculcated in school are appropriate to the challenges involved.

This proposition is largely unfair for minority youngsters, who in certain localities represent a large part of the population. At age 17, most of them would be still in school and living at home; they would not have yet faced the real world they would be asked to make decisions on that could influence their lives. One may ask, why stop at young voters? Why not apply the same principle to foreigners residing in our state so that they could vote in primaries if they can prove that they would become citizens by the time of the General Election? To illustrate the absurdity of such ideas, consider the Census: Should a mother expecting a child eight months before the end of the census year be able to count that child as a member of the population when allocating congressional seats?

Finally, as already noted, there is also a fiscal effect that could be in the millions of dollars because many 17 year olds do not yet have a driver’s license. We are already burdened by enough taxes; we do not need additional expenses to try to lengthen how long politicians stay in power. Proposition 18 will in no way improve the life of California citizens, and its only purpose is political advantage. Any proposition created by politicians should be analyzed under a microscope. Vote no on Proposition 18.

Correction: This op-ed has been corrected to state that the right to vote is at age 18, not at age 17 as an editing error originally had it.

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