As one of America’s most progressive cities and counties, San Francisco has long been a laboratory for progressive policy proposals. This year, the city voted on a measure on the ballot that, if passed, would have allowed 16-year-olds to vote in local elections.
This was the second time in six years that San Francisco considered this sort of policy. And, like a similar measure six years ago, this one narrowly failed. Even with the city’s very progressive lean, youth voting couldn’t break through.
As can be seen, the measure got big margins in the city’s progressive neighborhoods. It got crushing margins in the Mission, Potrero Hill, and Haight neighborhoods and expanded its support into the Nob Hill and Tenderloin areas.
But beyond that, it struggled to find votes. In the Richmond, Sunset, Marina, and Pacific Heights, voters strongly opposed youth voting. This is not surprising given these are usually the most conservative areas of the city. More damning for the measure’s chances, however, was its performance in the city’s ideologically swingy areas.
The measure only found mixed support in the Castro and Noe Valley. And it found almost no support in Balboa, Ingleside, Diamond Heights, and the Excelsior. Any progressive candidate or measure that hopes to succeed in the city needs to find at least some votes in these neighborhoods. The only moderate area where youth voting found any success was around Lake Merced. Here, it passed by huge margins in the precincts surrounding San Francisco State University.
The future of youth voting in San Francisco is unclear. Progressive activists have pushed it for years as a potential reform across the nation. But its failure in San Francisco for the second time in six years does not bode well for its chances in the rest of the country. Proponents could try to put the idea up for a vote again, but it is doubtful the result would be any different. It may be a long time before youth voting is a reality even in the country’s most progressive regions.