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Californians could begin voting at age 17 under a new proposal in the Legislature

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

California would become the first state in the nation to fully allow 17-year-olds to vote in elections under a proposal introduced on Tuesday in the Legislature.

"We want to expand the opportunity," said Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), author of the constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by a statewide vote in 2018.

Although other states allow 17-year-old citizens to vote in a primary as long as they will be 18 by the time of the general election, the proposal introduced by Low and a bipartisan group of young legislators would empower younger voters to cast ballots.

Low said 18-year-olds are often in a transition phase between high school and living on their own, and that voting habits begin early.

"I think that first election influences whether they continue to vote in future elections," he said.

Eleven states allow citizens as young as age 16 to pre-register to vote. Low pointed to statistics from California's 2014 statewide elections that show exceedingly low turnout among young voters. In an interview, though, he said the 2016 elections have engaged young Californians across the political spectrum.

"Extending the right to vote will help them engage in the democratic process," Low said of 17-year-olds.

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