San Anselmo town council candidate Tom King is proposing to lower the voting age to 15 to “bring more equality, energy, and diversity in our political system.” This policy would not only be unprecedented in our community and state, but in our nation as well.
King states that this policy is vital for the advancement of democracy. Not only will this increase voter turnout among young adults, but it will also provide incentive for teenagers to become active political members of their community. This will encourage teens to be more involved in issues that affect them. It will inspire them to take a stand for what they believe in, argues King.
He believes that young people are extremely intelligent and aware of how our political system functions—so aware, in fact, that they should have the right to vote in our local elections.
“It’s going to take time to resonate,” King said, but the reason he is advocating to open up this opportunity to 15 year olds is to allow them to “acclimate to the voting process.” His argument is that if kids know that their voice will have a direct effect on the community, they will be more likely to take this process seriously and not exploit it for personal amusement.
King currently has 110 ideas and counting listed on his website, which he intends to implement if elected. Among these ideas are plans to open up a new library with conference rooms and a cafe, increase flood preparedness, make San Anselmo a smoke-free zone, ban GMOs, and protect seniors from fraud. Arguably, however, one of his most interesting proposals is to “expand democracy.”
According to Government and Economics teacher Fred Beale, local elections are derived from the state, therefore California has legalized underage voting at the local level. This policy change would be in accordance with the United States Constitution and would not violate the 26th amendment, which set the federal voting age to 18.
Even though students don’t take U.S. History or U.S. Government until their junior and senior year, King still thinks that fifteen year olds are equipped to take on this civic duty, because of their high energy and enthusiasm.
He understands that this process will take a while for it fulfill its intended purpose of expanding democracy, but he is hopeful that this policy, along with his proposal to make town councilman a paid position while limiting it to a single term, will have a positive ripple effect on the county and region as a whole. According to King, the teenagers he has talked to seem excited and optimistic about this potential change.
However, not all students feel this way. “I think that some teenagers are really into politics but a lot of them just have the same views as their parents and peers. I think that most teenagers that have always lived with their parents, in the area their parents chose to live in, don’t really have the capacity to make an independent informed decision on who to vote for,” said senior Eva Mars.
Other students also agree with Mars.
“At age 15, we’re lacking so much in knowledge, experience, and original opinions that aren’t influenced by what we see in the media and we can’t even get our driving permits yet, so how would we be able to vote to the best of our abilities on things that will not only affect us but also our communities?” said senior Anais Nagle.
But King “believes in young people” and the notion that increased responsibility will yield increased integrity amongst the younger members of our community. He sees our generation as the voice of the future.
If we are given the opportunity to be exposed to local politics at a young age, he claims we will become engaged, informed individuals. He sees this change as necessary and believes we are in desperate need of a democratic transformation.
“It’s a Catch-22,” King said, when asked about our current political system. He would like for teenagers to elect officials they feel passionate about, who in turn help our community progress. “We need town council interaction and accountability among our officials” he said.
King strongly contends that this greater town council accountability is achieved through electing officials who will be committed to public service because they know they are only serving one term and don’t have to worry about campaigning for another election. This is done through the help of young student voters.
At press time, election results were unknown.