As students in San Francisco mobilize in support of Vote16SF, young people nationwide are closely watching our progress. Thirteen Vote16 campaigns have sprung up across the country, representing young people in seven states and Washington D.C. San Francisco would be the first major city in the United States to expand voting rights to 16- and 17-year olds, and a show of support in November would go a long way towards convincing other communities around the country that Vote16 would be a powerful solution to low voter turnout.
In response to growing advocacy last fall, the national civics education organization, Generation Citizen, formed Vote16USA, a national campaign to support ongoing local efforts to lower the voting age. This summer, youth leaders at the center of the movement convened in San Francisco for the inaugural Vote16USA retreat. I had the great pleasure of joining the group for two days of workshops and sharing the lessons we have learned in our different campaigns.
At the retreat, we spent time considering our personal narratives and reflecting on why we each came to Vote16. I co-founded Vote16SF in response to my dismay at low voter turnout in 2014, when more than half of the ballot measures in San Francisco directly affected young people. Meanwhile, our colleagues in Denver, Colorado were motivated by the need to push back against school board members who actively ignored the needs of young people. Students in Santa Rosa came to Vote16 in a search for an innovative solution to combat the effects of racism by encouraging a sense of community investment among citizens of all backgrounds.
After months of working with our partners in Berkeley, Vote16SF leaders were proud to watch the movement continue across the Bay: Berkeley city council members voted unanimously to put a measure on their November ballot that will give young people a voice in school board elections.
The retreat was a statement of unity from the young people who have always driven Vote16. In San Francisco, we are proud to invite our community to join our youth-led grassroots campaign. Share in the passion that sparked the campaign, sustained us thus far, and will lead us to a strong showing in November! As one member commented, “This retreat has empowered me to think bigger - because so many young leaders throughout the country are also striving toward similar goals.” We’re thinking big, and we bet you are, too.