Oakland will decide if teenagers can vote in school board elections

Sixteen- and seventeen-year olds in Oakland could soon gain the right to vote in school board elections. The Oakland City Council approved a resolution on Tuesday afternoon to place the question on the November ballot.

2020 november election logo“Allowing young adults to have a vote in elections directly impacting them, helps improve responsiveness of these governmental roles, and helps build empowered community members, with practical knowledge and skill set to make change in their community through the democratic process,” said Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplna.

“In this era, as we face down threats of voter suppression and other efforts to silence marginalized voices in our democracy, it is all the more important that we work to ensure our communities are included,” she continued.

The idea is not new to the East Bay. Berkeley voters passed a similar ballot measure in 2016 with 70 percent support. Five other cities in the country allow teens the right to vote in school board elections.

Enfranchising teens not only widens the voting pool for school district elections, but also gives them a early taste of democracy that advocates say is long-lasting. “Research has proven that younger first-time voters are more likely to become life-long voters and make our parents more likely to vote as well. This will help us get more youth and young adults more civically engaged” said Denilson Garibo, Oakland school board student director.

An argument can also be made that high school students should have a direct say in who represents them on the school board, especially given the Oakland Unified School District history of underperforming schools and financial mismanagement over the years.