The Oakland City Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to place an Oakland Youth Vote measure on the November ballot, which would give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in Board of Education elections.
If the measure is approved, Oakland would become the sixth city in the country to extend the voting age to 16. Berkeley passed a similar measure in 2016 and San Francisco is attempting to do the same in November.
“Allowing young adults to have a vote in elections directly impacting them helps improve the responsiveness of these governmental roles, and helps build empowered community members, with practical knowledge and skillset to make a change in their community through the democratic process,” said Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the ballot measure to add an amendment to the Charter of the City of Oakland.
“In this era, as we face down threats of voter suppression and other efforts to silence marginalized voices in our democracy, it is all the more important that we work to ensure our communities are included,” she said.
Kaplan emphasized that many youth organizations and others on the City Council have joined together to support the measure.
“The young people have been working on this for a long time and have done incredible work,” she said. “I was honored to bring this forward with them and then to be joined also by Councilmembers (Nikki) Bas, (Loren) Taylor, and (Sheng) Thao.”
Student leaders from Oakland Kids First, All City Council Student Union, and organizations from the Oakland Youth Vote Coalition launched Oakland Youth Vote to strengthen youth voices and expand their role in improving the education system. They spent months researching, engaging their school communities, and meeting with community leaders to enlist their support in the development of the legislation.
“Research has proven that younger, first-time voters are more likely to become life-long voters and make our parents more likely to vote as well. This will help us get more youth and young adults more civically engaged” said Denilson Garibo, Oakland school board student director.
“This is important to me because I’m a student in the Oakland Unified School District and anything that’s going to affect my school system, is going to affect me and my future,” said Ixchel Arista, a student organizer with Oakland Kids First.
Keith Brown, president of Oakland Education Association (OEA), is also backing the measure.
“The reality is that budget cuts and slashing critical student services hurt students, particularly low-income students of color,” he said. “Students led the fight to protect many of those services. They have a right to help choose School Board representatives who put students first.”
For more information and to see full list of supporters, go to: www.oaklandyouthvote.org