The state of California already recognizes that 16 year olds have the maturity, reasoning and comprehension skills to be granted new responsibilities, such as the ability to work, drive, and pay takes on the income they earn.

  • In addition, Oakland Youth Vote prepares young people to participate in democracy – before they leave home and high school, when they still have the support of their families and teachers.
  • Oakland has a deep tradition of hundreds of student leaders coming together to advocate for concrete improvements in our schools. From reinstating OUSD’s Free Supper program to protecting critical student services and standing with teachers on the picket lines – Oakland youth are making positive change! They are ready to choose the school board members that will best represent their interests and ensure – EVERY student receives a quality education in OUSD. When we invest in young people’s leadership and solutions, they learn to believe in themselves and the power they have to make our community stronger! And in this critical moment in history, we need the leadership of the next generation – now more than ever.

When people are engaged in voting at a young age, they are more likely to get into the habit of voting for the rest of their life.1Plutzer, Eric. “Becoming a Habitual Voter: Inertia, Resources, and Growth in Young Adulthood.” The American Political Science Review, vol. 96, no. 1, 2002, pp. 41–56. Once a person votes, they are likely to continue voting. However, because of the transitions that youth go through at 18, many youth miss their first opportunity to vote.(Dahlgaard, Jens Olav. “Analysis | The Surprising Consequence of Lowering the Voting Age.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 1, 2018. Giving students the opportunity to vote in one complete election cycle before transitioning away from home will give them a chance to get into the habit of voting early.

  • California currently allows 16 year-olds to pre-register to vote because early voter engagement boosts turnout. Additionally, when youth vote, their parents are also more likely to start voting.
  • Other cities who have already implemented Youth Vote, have seen a dramatic increase in turnout. In Takoma Park, Maryland, in 2013, voter turnout of 16 and 17 year olds was four times higher than overall voter turnout.
  • Half the students in our school district (or 51.3%) live in Districts 5, 6, and 7 – so Oakland Youth Vote would help boost overall voter turnout in East Oakland.



1. Plutzer, Eric. “Becoming a Habitual Voter: Inertia, Resources, and Growth in Young Adulthood.” The American Political Science Review, vol. 96, no. 1, 2002, pp. 41–56.

Oakland students are the primary recipients of the services provided by school – and their experiences, needs and concerns should inform district policy and priorities of School Board members. Cities across the country are considering this and over 70% of voters in Berkeley just passed the same measure in 2016 giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in school board elections.

Last year, when San Francisco was attempting to pass Prop F in an effort to give 16 year olds the right to vote in municipal elections, they estimated that the cost would be between $42,000 and $85,000 thousand dollars per election cycle (every two years). Our measure is only for School Board elections so the estimated costs would be even lower.

We are committed to lifting up the voices of all youth in our school system. Unfortunately current voting laws do not allow undocumented residents to vote. We know that 24% of 11th and 12th graders in OUSD are newcomers and/or English language learners and many of these youth may be undocumented. This is an important population that Oakland Youth Vote is already organizing with. Oakland Youth Vote is committed to working with (and is endorsed by) voting rights organizations who are working on removing these barriers so all undocumented youth and adults have a voice. The decisions made in Oakland Youth Vote are informed by the youth leaders who come from the communities directly impacted by voter disenfranchisement. One undocumented Oakland Youth Vote leader said, ‘When my peers have a voice…it’s like I have a voice’. This initiative is one important step towards achieving our goals of everyone participating in this democracy. 

California 16 and 17 year olds are entrusted with many “adult” responsibilities including the ability to drive, to work and pay taxes. Youth across the country have taken the lead in advocating on issues that deeply impact them, including gun violence and climate change. We believe that our youth have the emotional and political capacity to resist manipulation by any person or organization and to form their own opinions. That their opinions might differ from one another is not a reason not to give them the right to vote. The right to have an opinion is democracy in action.

Expanding democracy to include the voices of those directly impacted – is how we can help solve some of our city’s biggest challenges such as how to improve our educational system. Fear of ‘influencers’ is not a reason – to not enfranchise and give a voice to approximately 8,000 youth – many of whom are low-income and come from the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in Oakland.

In all local elections – Takoma Park, MD (2013); Hyattsville, MD (2015); Riverdale Park, MD
(2018); Greenbelt, MD (2018). In School Board Elections – Berkeley (2016). Nationally – Brazil, Scotland, Austria, Cuba, Scotland, Argentina among others