Reading the Props: Proposition 18 has triggered me.

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Every two years, I read the full text of all statewide ballot propositions—because at least one Californian should.

Next is Prop 18.

 

The measure itself makes sense. It is another of the constitutional amendments that the legislature has put on this November’s ballot. It amends the second section of Article II of the state constitution to make a very tiny change that permits 17 year olds to vote if they will turn 18 by the time of the November election.

That makes sense. It says here that all children should be allowed to vote. Certainly anyone old enough to drive a car should be able to vote. Remember, being mature and having a realistic sense of the world beyond ourselves are not requirement for voting. After all, we still let Boomers vote.

But it’s not the objections to lower the voting age that triggered me. It’s the language of the measure, and how it again puts a false understanding of California elections into the California . Here is that language:  

A United States citizen who is 17 years of age, is a resident in this State, and will be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next general election may vote in any primary or special election that occurs before the next general election in which the citizen would be eligible to vote if at least 18 years of age

The trouble is one of election labeling. The measure would give 17 years old the right to vote in primary elections, but California no longer has primaries. We eliminated all but presidential primaries when we went to the top two system. Still, California persists in calling its first-round election, with candidates from all parties on the ballot, a primary when that election is really a general. And the November elections we call general elections are really run-offs.

This may seem like a minor point to many, but it isn’t. One day, California may have to correct its basic errors of election labeling, and may find itself having to fix this part of the constitution too.

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