17-Year-Olds Will Not Be Able to Vote in Primaries, As Prop. 18 Goes Down

Voters are deciding whether some 17-year-olds should be able to vote in the primary. Election worker Robert Steffani, 17, poses for a portrait at the Coliseum official polling place and ballot dropoff location in Oakland on Oct. 31, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Proposition 18 — which would have allowed 17-year-olds to vote in state primaries and special elections if they turn 18 before the general election — has failed, with 55% voting against the proposition, according to the Associated Press.

A study by the Public Policy Institute of California determined that more than 200,000 voters would have been eligible from this change in each of the previous two elections.

Supporters of the change framed the issue as one of fairness: that these newly eligible voters in the general election should have a say in choosing the candidates that advance from the primary. They also presented Proposition 18 as a way to further youth engagement in elections by beginning to build a voting habit earlier in a teen's life.

But opponents feared the change would give impressionable high school students, who could be unduly influenced, a direct say in the many local taxes and bonds that come before voters in primary elections. And 18 remains the standard legal threshold of adulthood.