Two voting-related propositions will appear on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot. Both placed on the ballot by votes of the Legislature, Proposition 18 should be supported by voters and Proposition 17 should be rejected.
Proposition 18 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will turn 18, the legal voting age, by a November general election.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be turning 18 by the general election. The states include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. Proposition 18 would have California join these states in encouraging the civic involvement of young adults through voting.
The rationale is that these young soon-to-be voters should be allowed to participate in a primary election to select the candidates competing for their votes in a final general election showdown. Now they have no say and are stuck with picking between candidates that others selected in an earlier primary election.
Opposition to this proposal in the Legislature fell along partisan lines, with Republicans being outvoted by overwhelming Democratic support. The argument against the proposal in the Legislature, as well as for voters to consider, swirls around the contention that 17-year-olds living at home are more influenced by their parents and teachers than 18-year-olds. The few months between a primary and general election would seem unlikely to make much of a difference in how these young adults are influenced or how they will cast their ballots.
This is the latest effort of many in recent years to reach out to young voters to encourage the development of a lifelong “habit” of voting, which is the cornerstone of self-government. Other efforts include enabling people to register to vote when obtaining their driver’s licenses, and pre-registering to vote 16- and 17-year-olds. When these pre-registered teens turn 18, they are automatically registered to vote.
These and other outreach efforts seem to be paying off. According to a YouGov survey of California youth conducted on behalf of the University of California, 70 percent of young people interviewed said they were registered to vote and about 55 percent said they will “definitely” or “probably” vote in November.
Proposition 17, which voters should reject, would allow convicted felons to vote while they still are on parole.
In 1974, California voters passed a proposition giving people who have committed felonies the right to vote once they complete their sentences and are no longer on parole. After lobbying by prisoner rights advocates, the Legislature placed Proposition 17 on the ballot to extend voting to convicted felons who have completed their prison terms, but who still are on parole.
For perspective, consider a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California that noted the number of people on parole has decreased from a peak of 126,000 in 2007 to 46,000 a decade later.
The decrease accompanied various propositions passed by voters to reform sentencing and reduce the state’s prison populations. Under “realignment,” only the most serious offenders now are incarcerated in state prison and then released to parole.
While parole is considered a mechanism to transition felons “back into society,” it also is a time – commonly three years – for a convicted criminal to earn their place in society. That should include earning their right to vote.
In 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law allowing people in local jails to vote. But granting voting rights to parolees from state prisons requires voter approval.
The now approximately 40,000 Californians who have completed their prison sentences, but who are unable to vote while on parole, are transitioning back into society. They must still prove that they belong.