California Assemblyman Proposes Extending Voting Rights 17-Year-Olds



California Assemblyman Evan Low has introduced a measure to lower the state’s minimum voting age to 17. 

“Young people are our future,” he said in an interview discussing the measure, “Lowering the voting age will help give them a voice in the democratic process and instill a lifelong habit of voting.”

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Press Release: Yes on Ranked Choice launches in Santa Cruz

Newly Formed Santa Cruz-based Organization Leads Charge For Better Election System

Group Aims to Place an Electoral Reform Initiative on 2018 City Ballot

Santa Cruz, CA — “Yes on Ranked Choice” is a committee seeking to change the way California votes, with a particular focus in Santa Cruz county. The group, which consists of local organizers and FairVote California, is currently working on placing a proposition on the 2018 city ballot in a response to what many voters express as frustration with the current system of having to choose the “lesser of two evils” or risk “wasting” their vote because of strategic voting.

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A Crowded, Costly Special Election that Risks Low Voter Turnout - Better Elections are Possible

The race for Xavier Becerra’s former seat in the 34th Congressional District is just around the corner. Twenty-three candidates entered the race to represent the neighborhoods of Central, East, and Northeast Los Angeles. This April 4th special election sets up challenging dynamics -- and a June 6th runoff will postpone voters in the 34th district having a true voice.

Most obviously, the large field makes it difficult to achieve a majority win for the community. Voters will likely split their votes among the 23 candidates running, and none will come close to receiving 50% of support. This means the state will need to hold two elections -- an initial “primary” to narrow the field to two, and then a “general” election to determine a majority winner, which will cost taxpayers more than $1.3 million to cast and count.

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Every RCV Election in the Bay Area So Far Has Produced Condorcet Winners

There are numerous ways to assess an electoral system. Mathematicians and political scientists have developed hundreds of different criteria, with the most common including the majority criterion, the later-no-harm criterion and the Condorcet winner criterion.

The Condorcet winner criterion is one of the most common criteria. It states that the candidate who would win a one-on-one matchup against any other candidate should win the election. The frequency with which an electoral system elects Condorcet winners is a good measure of whether the election system reflects the political center of a given electorate, since a Condorcet winner, by definition, has to be able to win over a majority of the electorate regardless of alternative choices.

A system that more often elects Condorcet winners will less often elect a candidate disliked by the majority of voters--an outcome that US voters in plurality elections and low turnout runoffs know all too well. It is hard to estimate how many US elections using plurality and runoff systems elect candidates disliked by a majority of voters, but we all have anecdotes of reviled politicians who somehow manage to keep being re-elected.

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With Your Support, We’re Ready for 2017!

Dear Friends,

We hope you’re enjoying this holiday season with family and friends! As the year is coming to a close, I’ve continued to process this most recent election and we can all agree this is an incredibly unique time in our history. It is clear, voters want and need real choices that truly reflect our diverse communities. We need to be free to vote for the candidates we like the best without worrying that we’ll help to elect the candidates we like the least.

Will you join us at FairVote California and donate a start-up gift?

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Bay Area Spotlight: Youth Vote

To truly recognize voting as a fundamental right and address the low voter turnout that currently plagues young voters, FairVote supports lowering the voting age to 16. Empirical evidence suggests that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit. While one’s first reaction might be to question the ability of young voters to cast a meaningful vote, research shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters.

This year, voters in Berkeley and San Francisco voted on two youth vote measures:

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Bay Area Spotlight: San Francisco Supervisor District 1

Last November, voters in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro had the opportunity to vote in ranked choice voting elections (RCV), which gives voters a stronger voice and greater choice in our elections.

In San Francisco, voter turnout was 80.7% of registered voters casting a ballot -- down 0.5% from 2008, but representing more city voters than ever before in history at 414,516 votes.

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar was termed out in 2016, which left an open seat on the Board of Supervisors. Nine (9) candidates entered the race. Current San Francisco Unified School District Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer emerged as the winner in this election. The analysis below provides an overview of how she won in an RCV election.

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Bay Area Spotlight: Berkeley

The Race for Mayor

In an eight (8) candidate race for Berkeley Mayor, Jesse Arreguin, former District 4 Councilmember defeated Laurie Capitelli, former District 5 Councilmember, by a 49.1% to 32.1% margin in first choices. With ranked choice voting (RCV), Arreguin crossed the 50% majority threshold when second choices of Naomi Pete, Mike Lee, and Bernt Wahl were counted.

Many observers of the Berkeley Mayoral race noted the alliance that was formed between Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington, District 7 Councilmember. Worthington’s campaign website notes that with RCV, voters could rank himself and Arreguin. 

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Oakland Passes Resolution Calling For Reforms To Elect the President by National Popular Vote, Eliminate Congressional Gerrymandering, And Remove Barriers To Voting

This week, the City of Oakland unanimously passed a resolution calling for reform to abolish the electoral college. The resolution was introduced by Oakland District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb, and was co-sponsored by At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. 

The resolution directs the City Administrator and City Lobbyist to work with relevant state and federal elected officials to develop and ratify an amendment to the United States Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote for President, such as the legislation recently introduced by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California. In the alternative, the resolution asks to approve the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

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Better elections are possible. Let’s get started!

The 2016 elections helped to illustrate the ways in which voters are penalized by our voting rules. Voters of all stripes are deprived of a range of real choices at the ballot. Unrepresentative winners in elections at all levels of government -- by candidates of all parties -- serve to further divide communities and make governing more difficult. Ranked choice voting gives you the freedom to vote for the candidate you like the best without worrying you'll help to elect the candidate you like the least.

On November 8th, Maine voters voted “yes” on a ballot question to adopt ranked choice voting for all statewide elections. In doing so, they became the first state to make vote-splitting and the concept of “spoiler candidates” a thing of the past. California should follow their lead.

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