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.