BILL ANALYSIS SENATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS COMMITTEE Senator Charles Poochigian, Chair BILL NO: SCA 19 HEARING: June 23, 2004 AUTHOR: Vasconcellos FISCAL: Yes VERSION: March 8, 2004 CHIEF COUNSEL: Scott Johnson REFERRED: Sen E&R 5/5/04 (3-2) Minimum Voting Age SUMMARY This proposed constitutional amendment would allow Californians as young as 14 years of age to cast ballots. If enacted, SCA 19 would entitle citizens to cast a quarter of a vote at age 14 and a half of a vote at age 16. BACKGROUND Existing provisions of the California Constitution authorize a United States citizen and a resident of this state the right to vote at the age of 18. Historically, California's Constitution provided various prescriptions on the voting franchise particularly with respect to literacy and residency. In 1971, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution extended the voting age to those who are eighteen years of age or older and provided that no state may abridge the right to vote. Accordingly, Article II, Section 2 of the California Constitution was amended to comply with the change in the federal Constitution and now succinctly provides that "A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote." Elections Code Sections 2000 and 2001 further provide that any person who will be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election is eligible to register and vote at that election provided he or she is a United States citizen, a resident of California and not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony. ANALYSIS SCA 19 proposes to amend Article II, Section 2 of the state Constitution to lower the voting age from 18 years of age to 14. Persons aged 14 and 15 would be eligible to cast one-quarter of a vote and the vote of persons 16-17 years of age would count as one-half of a vote. The author calls this proposal "Training wheels for citizenship." By enfranchising younger people with a partial vote, the author hopes to accustom them to the responsibilities of citizenship in a phased in apprentice-like manner. Opponents note that extending the voting franchise to minors is a significant departure from the historical notion in this country that voting is an adult responsibility. The minimum voting age has changed over time most notably in 1971 with the passage of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 26th Amendment granted 18 year olds the right to vote and provided that no state may abridge that right. Extending the voting franchise was consistent with the concept that adult rights and responsibilities should go hand in hand. The principle argument for adopting the 26th Amendment was the acknowledgement that if one could serve in the military at age 18 and even die in the service of one's country then the right to vote should follow. COMMENTS According to the author, SCA 19 "incorporates youth into the world of voting by providing them with graduated, binding votes in state elections." However, granting only proportional voting rights to under 18 year old voters may constitute a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Legislative Counsel has been asked to review the constitutional issues raised by granting fractionalized voting rights. The right to vote is a fundamental right held to the highest level of scrutiny under the law. Although there is no case law precisely on point, Counsel has opined that "... because the fundamental right to vote is implicated by SCA 19, a court would likely apply the strict scrutiny standard in determining whether the granting of only a fractional vote to a voter under the age of 18, or the differential treatment of classes of voters under the age of 18, would violate the equal protection clause and, pursuant to that standard, that the state would have to demonstrate, with a strong basis in evidence, that imposing those limitations is necessary to achieve a compelling state interest." RELATED LEGISLATION ACA 23 (Speier) of 1995 proposed to confer full voting rights to California residents and U.S. citizens 14 years of age and older. The measure was referred to the Assembly Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee, but was never scheduled for a hearing. SUPPORT Active Students California Association of Student Councils National Youth Rights Association OPPOSITION California Family Council Responsible Citizens, Inc.