Evan Low knows about getting involved in politics at an early age. Elected to the state Assembly in 2014, he became the youngest Asian-American legislator in California’s history.
Now he’s working to challenge another governmental age restriction: lowering the statewide voting age to 17.
“I chair the elections committee,” Low (D-Campbell) told San Jose Inside. “My focus has been on the electoral process. As a millennial and a political science teacher, this issue is near and dear to me.”
With the help of a bipartisan caucus made up of other millennials, including teenagers, Low co-authored Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10. Although 17-year-olds are allowed to vote in primary elections if they turn 18 prior general election, this effort would expand voting rights directly to 17-year-olds. For Low, it’s a matter of maximizing accessibility, minimizing voter suppression and creating better representation for younger demographics.
According to Low’s office, only 8.2 percent of eligible youth between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in California’s 2014 general election.
“So what happens at 18? A typical person at 18, they are going to school elsewhere, they’re leaving,” Low said. “So the questions is, do I register at San Diego State or back home?”
At the age of 17, he added, teenagers are generally still engaged in high school studies of American government. However, there is a static area for civic involvement prior to leaving for college. A lower voting age, Low said, would encourage high schools to integrate voting into the curriculum.
In effect, the proposal would instill a sense of civic responsibility in voting, making it a rite of passage into democratic adulthood.
Low compared his effort to how tobacco companies have courted young people to smoke. “They wanted to instill in them this habit,” he said.
The only difference, of course, is voting won’t kill you.
ACA 10 passed through the Assembly Elections Committee on May 10. It now advances to the Assembly, where it will require a 2/3 majority to move on to the Senate.