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Outlook improving for SF’s youth voting measure

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San Francisco high school senior Joshua Cardenas wrote a resolution last year that encouraged the Board of Supervisors and mayor to lower The City’s voting age to 16 for municipal and school district elections. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)
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Support continues to grow for a November ballot measure that would lower San Francisco’s voting age to 16, though the measure appears to remain just shy of passing, the latest polling research shows.

Supporters of the measure, however, are still encouraged by the recent poll since Proposition F, the youth voting measure, has picked up some 10 points since previous polling in March, according to the campaign, which provided to the San Francisco Examiner poll research conducted earlier this month.

“It’s been improving a lot. The numbers are extraordinarily encouraging,” said Celi Tamayo-Lee, campaign coordinator for the Yes on F Vote 16 campaign. “We’re within striking distance of passing this.”

An Oct. 20 EMC Research memo shows that support for Prop. F falls at 48 percent, just shy of the majority needed to pass. If approved, the voting age would be lowered for local candidate races and local measures. San Francisco would be the first major city in the U.S. to lower the voting age.

Tamayo-Lee attributes the better polling results to the outreach being done by a group of youths, such as through canvassing or using social media.

“We’ve definitely been a youth-led campaign,” Tamayo-Lee said.

She added that youth voting is a “second-look issue,” meaning the more advocates explain the measure, the more voters are inclined to support it.

The measure needs at least 50 percent of the votes to prevail. For those who hope to see the voting age lowered from 18 to 16, this November is the best opportunity since the measure is most popular among those who only turn out to vote at presidential elections.

The key to the measure’s success will rest with infrequent and younger voters, the research shows.

“Infrequent voters are the strongest supporters — the historic turnout this November offers a unique opportunity to pass the measure,” the memo reads.

For those voters who regularly cast ballots in all elections, youth voting is not popular, with some 55 percent opposed. But that trend changes when it comes to infrequent and new voters.

According to the research, “Among new registrants (11 percent of voters), 69 percent support Proposition F and among those that voted for the first time in the June presidential primary, support for F is at 54 percent.”

The memo also notes that “making sure younger voters get down the ballot will be key to success.” With 25 local measures on the ballot, that’s a challenge not just for the Vote16 effort.

“Older voters are hesitant to offer the opportunity to vote to those under 18, while a majority of younger San Francisco voters see the benefit of engaging youth in the political process,” the memo said. “Making sure these young voters get through the ballot and all the way down to F will be crucial.”

For example, the poll found that 71 percent of 18 to 24 year olds support Prop. F, but just 30 percent of voters older than 65 favor the measure.

One advantage for the supporters is that there is no organized opposition to the measure.

Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the charter amendment for the November ballot, credited the youths for the improved polls. “People’s initial belief about Vote16 is that it is about redefining adulthood and its privileges,” Avalos said. “On the contrary, Vote16 is about enlivening our democracy with increased participation.”

Opponents argue there shouldn’t be a patchwork of legal age requirements, and also that 16-year-olds are not ready to cast ballots.

The campaign also received a pledge Thursday of a $100,000 contribution.

“The stars are aligning,” Tamayo-Lee said. “We have to haul energy in the next two weeks.”

The multilingual poll, which has a 3.5 percent margin of error, was conducted Oct. 12-19 by EMC Research among 800 likely voters by telephone and online.

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