Since returning from recess on August 12, the state legislature’s lower house has passed two constitutional amendments designed to reduce the voting age. ACA 4 would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in that year’s primaries and special elections. As of August 2019, 16 states allow 17-year-olds who will be at at the time of the next general election to vote in that year’s primaries. Unlike ACA 4, the second constitutional amendment would make California the first state in the nation to not just lower the voting age for primaries but for general elections. ACA 8 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in elections. ACA 4 and ACA 8 could appear on the ballot in March 2020, and ACA 8 could be implemented in time for the general election on November 3, 2020, should voters approve the constitutional amendment.
Both ACA 4 and ACA 8 had the support of most Democrats—56 of 61 to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and 54 of 61 to allow 17-year-olds to vote in all elections. Most Republicans opposed the constitutional amendments—2 of 18 supported allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and 3 of 18 supported allowing 17-year-olds to vote in all elections. The constitutional amendments needed 53 votes in the Assembly.
According to a California Assembly Floor Analysis, published on August 16, 2019, “Because the US Constitution only addresses abridging the right to vote and this measure expands voting rights there appears to be no conflict with the federal constitution. In an opinion dated April 12, 2004, the Legislative Counsel opined that an amendment to the California Constitution to permit a person under the age of 18 to vote would not violate federal law.”
With approval in the state Assembly, the question of whether ACA 4, ACA 8, or both will go before voters is in the hands of the state Senate. The 40-member state Senate is composed of 29 Democrats and 11 Republicans. At least 27 votes are needed in the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature is not required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.
Between 1995 and 2018, the California State Legislature has asked voters to decide 32 constitutional amendments. Voters approved 84.4 percent of the constitutional amendments.