San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos tabled a proposal Monday to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in local elections, but vowed to try again next year. Avalos said the proposal — which must go before voters as a ballot initiative — will have a better chance at succeeding in 2016 when there is a presidential election and higher voter turnout. “We need more time to discuss this with young people and the public in general. But I also think it’s important the largest number of voters weigh in on this,” Avalos said after a special hearing on the matter.
Even if Avalos wanted to put the measure to a vote in November, he appeared unlikely to have the six votes on the Board of Supervisors necessary to put it on the ballot. The legality of the proposal, meanwhile, remains in question.
Legal experts said the U.S. Constitution doesn’t prohibit lowering the voting age to 16, but state Elections Code Section 2000 delineates the voting age as any person at least 18 years old.
“A California charter city lowering the voting age for its residents is not so clearly legal that no one would challenge it,” said David A. Carrillo, director of the California Constitution Center at UC Berkeley School of Law.