BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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          Date of Hearing:  June 15, 2016 


                                Shirley Weber, Chair

          ACA 7  
          (Gonzalez) - As Introduced February 11, 2016

          SUBJECT:  Voting age:  school and community college district  
          governing board elections.

          SUMMARY:  Permits 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school and  
          community college district governing board elections.   
          Specifically, this measure proposes a constitutional amendment  
          that would permit a United States citizen who is at least 16  
          years of age and a resident of California to vote in a school or  
          community college district governing board election in which  
          that person would be qualified to vote based on residence.

          EXISTING LAW:  

          1)Permits a person who is a United States citizen, a resident of  
            California, not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a  
            felony, and is at least 18 years of age at the time of the  
            next election to register to vote in any local, state, or  
            federal election.

          2)Allows a person who is at least 16 years old and otherwise  
            meets all voter eligibility requirements to register to vote.  


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            Provides that the registration will be deemed effective as  
            soon as the affiant is 18 years old at the time of the next  
            election. Provides this option will be operative when the  
            Secretary of State certifies that the state has a statewide  
            voter registration database that complies with specified  
            provisions of federal law.

          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown


          1)Purpose of the Measure:  According to the author:

               ACA 7 would allow individuals age 16 years and older  
               to vote in their local school board and community  
               college district governing board elections.

               Currently, 16- to 18-year-olds continue to increase  
               their advocacy at local and statewide levels, but lack  
               actual electoral power and have traditionally low  
               engagement in politics. The 18-year-old voting age  
               requirement does not allow many young people to cast  
               votes until they are moved out of their family's home  
               and out of high school - two environments where they  
               are able to confer with parents and teachers about the  
               civic importance of voting and the role of government  
               on our lives. Furthermore, once able to vote at age  
               18, many face additional obstacles, such as moving  
               frequently, which make beginning to vote at this age  


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               Across the nation and worldwide, a movement has been  
               growing to more fully engage young people in democracy  
               and democratic processes. In 2014, the United Nations  
               called for countries to increase their engagement  
               efforts with young people in democratic processes.  
               Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Washington have all  
               had proposals to lower the voting age, and local  
               efforts in California have begun progressing as well.  
               Two cities in Maryland - Takoma Park and Hyattsville -  
               have actually had success in lowering the voting age  
               by amending their city charters. In 2013, the turnout  
               of newly enfranchised voters in Takoma Park was nearly  
               double the turnout of voters over age 18. 

               Research suggests that not only do 16- and  
               17-year-olds have the maturity to make these informed  
               political decisions, but that a lower voting age could  
               lead to instilled voting habits in these young adults  
               and greater civic engagement throughout their lives.  
               Some academic research even suggests that a lower  
               voting age may lead to an increase in parental voter  
               turnout as 16- and 17-year-olds bring home discussions  
               of civic engagement and their opportunity to  



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               In particular in this discussion, it is important to  
               highlight the clear nexus of enfranchisement and local  
               educational boards. Young adults must rely on their  
               parents to vote for the best choices in board members,  
               while others may have parents that are unable to vote  
               due to citizenship status or other reasons. This  
               leaves these students whom society has deemed can  
               drive, work, and pay taxes without a means to have  
               meaningful representation in decisions like the  
               formation of Local Control and Accountability Plans  
               (LCAPs)  which impact their daily lives in school.  
               While students may engage in protests, show up to  
               meetings, or even form youth committees, to engage in  
               the process, none of these actions allow them to exert  
               the accountability over educational boards that a vote  
               does. The lack of meaningful representation of these  
               students and in many cases even their parents may mean  
               that these local educational decisions are neglecting  
               a significant part of the community. Being able to  
               vote in local educational board elections would give  
               these young adults a true voice, and force local  
               educational boards to be accountable to their true  

          2)Age of Majority: This measure breaks with traditional notions  
            of the age of majority and the responsibilities and privileges  
            attached thereto.  For the most part, California law does not  
            allow minors to enter into civil contracts, including  
            marriage, or to be held to the same standards of  
            accountability in criminal matters, absent extenuating  

            With a few limited exceptions (most notably the legal drinking  


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            age and, as of earlier this month, the legal smoking age),  
            California confers the legal rights and responsibilities  
            attendant with adulthood on those individuals who are 18 years  
            of age or older.  The committee should consider whether it is  
            appropriate to confer one specific legal right-the right to  
            vote-on certain individuals who have not yet reached the age  
            of majority.

          3)Limited Voting Rights:  While this measure would establish a  
            framework under which 16- and 17-year olds could be allowed to  
            vote in elections for public office, those 16- and 17-year  
            olds would have only limited voting rights.  Voters under the  
            age of 18 would be able to vote for school board and community  
            college district board members, but would not be able to vote  
            on other offices or measures that appear on the ballot.  

          Under existing state law, eligibility to participate in public  
            elections generally is governed by a single set of  
            qualifications: namely, that a person must be a United States  
            citizen, at least 18 years of age, a resident of the  
            jurisdiction, not mentally incompetent, and not imprisoned or  
            on parole for the conviction of a felony.  (The one notable  
            exception is for elections in landowner voter districts, where  
            only landowners in the district are eligible to vote in  
            elections conducted by the district.  The United States  
            Supreme Court has found that landowner voter districts can be  
            constitutionally permissible only where a district does not  
            "exercise what might be thought of as 'normal governmental'  
            authority, but its actions disproportionately affect  
            landowners." Salyer Land Co. v. Tulare Water District (1973)  
            410 US 719.)  Having different qualifications for voting on  
            different offices or measures, instead of a uniform set of  
            voting qualifications, is a significant departure from  
            existing policy in California. 


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          4)Election Administration Complications:  By allowing 16- and  
            17-year olds to vote in certain elections, but not in others,  
            this measure could complicate the administration of elections.  
             For example, in school districts that consolidate their  
            governing board elections with statewide elections, this  
            measure presumably would require the creation of a separate  
            ballot that contains school district governing board races,  
            but not the other races and measures that appear on the ballot  
            at the same consolidated election.  Poll workers would need to  
            be trained and new procedures would need to be developed to  
            ensure that each voter received the correct ballot.

          5)San Francisco Charter Amendment:  Last month, the San  
            Francisco County Board of Supervisors voted to place a charter  
            amendment on the ballot at this November's statewide general  
            election that would authorize 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in  
            municipal elections.  The charter amendment-if approved by  
            voters-would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in elections  
            for the offices of Assessor-Recorder, City Attorney, District  
            Attorney, Mayor, Public Defender, Sheriff, Treasurer, and  
            members of the Board of Supervisors, Board of Education, and  
            Governing Board of the Community College District, as well as  
            any local measures that appear on the ballot.  The charter  
            amendment would not permit 16- or 17-year-olds to vote for  
            federal or state office, or to vote on state ballot measures.

          Article II, Section 2 of the California Constitution provides,  
            "A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this  
            State may vote."  Because this provision of the Constitution  
            describes voter qualifications, it is unclear whether the San  
            Francisco charter amendment may extend the right to vote in  
            local elections to 16- and 17-year-olds absent an amendment to  
            the Constitution.
          6)Amendment Requested:  The California School Boards Association  


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            (CSBA), which has a position of "support if amended" on this  
            measure, urges an amendment that would expand the scope of  
            this constitutional amendment to permit 16- and 17-year-olds  
            to be granted voting rights for "all non-federal elected  
            positions and ballot measures."  In its letter to the  
            committee outlining its position, CSBA writes:

               ACA 7 presupposes that 16- and 17-year-olds are  
               capable voters, but only allows them to vote in a  
               limited capacity.  This establishes two different  
               classes of voters in California: one that has full  
               voting rights, and one that does not.  This raises  
               significant questions of fairness and equality not  
               just to the voters themselves, but to the individual  
               candidates that would be elected by those voters.

               Under ACA 7, school and community college board  
               members would be subject to a different electorate  
               than every other elected official at every level of  
               state and local government, creating the unfounded  
               perception that school board members fall into a  
               different, or even a "lower" class of government than  
               does any other elected position.  This undermines the  
               role of governing board members statewide.
          7)Related Legislation:  AB 2517 (Thurmond), which is pending in  
            this committee, allows a charter city to permit 16- and  
            17-year olds to vote in school district elections if those  
            elections are governed by the city's charter.  AB 2517 was  
            heard in this committee on April 27, 2016, but was pulled by  
            the author prior to a vote.  AB 2517 is no longer eligible to  
            be acted on by this committee or by the Assembly absent a  
            suspension of the Joint Rules.

          ACA 2 (Mullin), which is pending on the Inactive File on the  


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            Assembly Floor, allows a person who is 17 years of age, and  
            who will be 18 years old at the time of the next general  
            election, to vote in any intervening primary or special  
            election that occurs before the next general election.

          8)Previous Legislation:  ACA 7 (Mullin) of 2013, ACA 2  
            (Furutani) of 2009, ACA 17 (Mullin) of 2005, and ACA 25  
            (Mullin) of 2004, all were similar to ACA 2 of the current  
            legislative session (as described above).  All of these  
            measures were approved by the Assembly Elections &  
            Redistricting Committee (or, in the case of ACA 25 of 2004,  
            the Assembly Elections, Redistricting, and Constitutional  
            Amendments Committee), but none of the measures passed off the  
            Assembly Floor.

          SCA 19 (Vasconcellos) of 2004, initially proposed to lower the  
            voting age to 14 years, with votes by 14- and 15-year olds  
            counting as one-quarter of a vote, and votes by 16- and  
            17-year olds counting as one-half of a vote.  SCA 19  
            subsequently was amended instead to lower the voting age to  
            16, with all votes counting equally as a single vote.  SCA 19  
            failed passage in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

          ACA 23 (Speier) of 1995, proposed lowering the voting age to 14,  
            but was never set for a hearing in the Assembly Elections,  
            Reapportionment, and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

          9)Approval by Voters: As a constitutional amendment, this  
            measure requires the approval of the voters to take effect.   
            Legislation making statutory changes necessary to implement  
            this measure would also be required. 

          Existing law requires measures submitted to the people by the  


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            Legislature to appear on the ballot of the first statewide  
            election occurring at least 131 days after the adoption of the  
            proposal by the Legislature.   The statutory deadline to place  
            a measure on the ballot for the November 8, 2016, statewide  
            election is June 30, 2016.  If this measure is chaptered after  
            June 30, 2016, it would appear on the ballot at the 2018  
            statewide primary election, or at any statewide special  
            election that is held prior to that date, but at least 131  
            days after this measure is chaptered.


          Alliance for Boys and Men of Color 

          Alliance San Diego


          Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition

          California Equity Leaders Network

          California Immigrant Policy Center

          California School Boards Association (if amended)


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          California Walks

          Californians for Justice

          Center for Community Action & Environmental Justice

          Children's Defense Fund - California 

          Fathers and Families of San Joaquin

          Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries

          The Greenlining Institute

          InnerCity Struggle

          Khmer Girls in Action

          Movement Strategy Center

          Policy Link

          Service Employees International Union, California State Council


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          Social Justice Learning Institute

          Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

          Urban Habitat


          None on file.

          Analysis Prepared by:Ethan Jones / E. & R. / (916) 319-2094