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Nov. 3: Voting on the right to vote

A diverse group of voters casting their ballots. (Photo: SeventyFour, via Shutterstock)

A pair of Nov. 3 ballot measures seeks to confer voting rights on two wildly disparate groups of Californians — prisoners and teenagers.

Proposition 17 would amend the state constitution to restore voting rights to prison inmates who have completed their sentences.

Proposition 18, another constitutional amendment, would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they become 18 by the next general election.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) is the author of the proposed constitutional amendment (ACA 4) that the Legislature put on the ballot as Prop. 18. Its backers argue that young people have a stake in public policy and should be given a chance to participate by voting.

California is not a pioneer in reducing the voting age. Eighteen states, along with Washington, D.C., allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the general election to vote in primary elections.

“Young people are directly affected by issues like employment initiatives, affordable housing and education funding,” Mullin said in a prepared statement. “They have what I would call ‘skin in the game’ on these and other issues and I believe we should be looking for ways to amplify their voices. ACA 4 does just that.”

The Yes on 18 – Vote for Our Future committee, along with allies, has raised about $1.2 million, although some of that money went to other ballot propositions. There were no figures reported on money raised in opposition.

 California is not a pioneer in reducing the voting age. Eighteen states, along with Washington, D.C., allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the general election to vote in primary elections.

Opponents argue that 17-year-olds are not quite ready for full-fledged adult responsibilities such as voting.

“Our youth show magnificent potential to manage the future. But let’s not blur the line between potential and readiness. Voting is an adult responsibility. Eighteen is the age of majority. Allowing minors to vote is wrong and could be disastrous,” argues Ruth Weiss, director of legislative oversight at Election Integrity Project California, argued in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Supporters argue that nearly 50,000 California citizens can’t vote because of the restrictions on former inmates.

Prop. 18’s chances are uncertain, although a Capitol Weekly survey of early mail-in voters released this week showed the measure leading handily  59% to 41%.

There’s a cautonary note here, however: The early vote reflected a Democratic surge, and pollsters say the numbers skewed left. The disparity is likely to tighten by Election Day, as more Republican votes are tallied.

Prop. 17, allowing former inmates to vote before their parole time is up, has been endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, the California Democratic Party, multimillionaire climate activist and former presidential hopeful Tom Steyer and the California League of Women Voters.

Supporters argue that nearly 50,000 California citizens can’t vote because of the restrictions on former inmates.

Prop. 17 opponents include The California Republican Party, Crime Victims United and the California Election Integrity Project.

“Prop 17 is simple, it will restore the voting rights of over 50,000 Californians, who have completed their prison term, who are on parole. Parole is not an extension of punishment, it’s a reintegration to regain connection to your community, family, hold a job, pay taxes and contribute in a positive way. We believe that in that same effort to reduce recidivism, you should also have the right to Vote,” argues Yes on 17 spokeswoman Shay Franco-Clausen.

Free the Vote CA, Yes on Prop 17 commitee along with allies, has raised about $1.03 million. There were no  reports on the opposition money.

Opponents include The California Republican Party, Crime Victims United and the California Election Integrity Project.

“Let’s talk a little about the universe we are dealing with here. They include murderers, voluntary manslaughter, rape, sodomists. For those that commit the crimes, particularly the heinous crimes, part of their sentence is to complete the parole period,” State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R- Tehama) said in a statement.

Nielsen’s Republican Party is equally dubious.

“Prop. 17 allows felons convicted of murder, rape, sexual abuse against children, kidnapping, assault, and human trafficking the right to vote before completing their sentence, including parole,” the party’s official statement declares. 

According to Survey USA, “Yes” leads “No” by 55% to 19%; the Capitol Weekly survey showed the measure leading 69% to 31%.


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