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2020: OAKLAND VOTERS APPROVE YOUTH VOTE. 2024: IMPLEMENTATION STILL PENDING.

Updated: Mar 26

Revised March 2024 by Debra Weinstein and Gail Wallace


In 2020 Oakland Measure QQ proposing a “youth vote” passed. The measure empowered the City Council to take the necessary steps so 16- and 17- year-olds could vote for Oakland Unified School District board members. The Oakland League supported that measure and has continued to advocate for implementation. Indications are that youth may finally be able to vote in the 2024 general election although that outcome is not yet assured.


BACKGROUND: Frustrated with school board decisions to cut programs and close schools, a group of students formed Oakland Youth Vote in 2019 with the goal of having a voice in electing board members whose decisions directly impact them. They wrote Measure QQ with a member of the Oakland City Council, and the council voted unanimously to put the measure on the ballot.  The measure passed with over 68% of the vote. The City of Berkeley passed a similar measure in 2016. 


LWVO SUPPORT:  The League is committed to advancing voting rights on all fronts. That includes empowering young voters.  Support for the youth vote is based on the belief that registering and voting in school board elections will set lifelong patterns that will increase overall voter participation.   


LWVO, alongside other advocates, has continued to track and advocate for implementation through meetings with the Registrar of Voters and, most recently, with a request to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors from all six Alameda County Leagues for a full status report. (See pdf below.)


IMPLEMENTATION: The Alameda County Register of Voters must create processes specific to Oakland and Berkeley, the only two cities in Alameda County that have authorized a youth vote. The processes must also comply fully with state electoral law and be compatible with existing systems. Among the complexities are:


  • Technical issues:  

    • Determine whether voting must be in person rather than by mail to ensure youth privacy. 

    • Ballots that ensure that youth cannot mistakenly vote in any other elections besides those for school board directors.

  •  Cost issues:

    • These were not fully addressed in the measure.

    • The state mandates that the Registrar provide registration information  and voter education. Would the Registrar assume these responsibilities and associated costs for the youth vote?


LATEST DEVELOPMENTS: The Alameda County Board of Supervisors appoints and has authority over the Registrar. The Registrar reported orally to the Supervisors on March 19  that the Youth Vote is on course to be implemented in November 2024. There are ongoing discussions with the cities of Oakland and Berkeley and the two school districts.  


These are some of the specifics that need to be addressed:

  • A unique software module must be developed.

  •  A contract with a software company that will write the code should be brought to the BOS in April.  

  • Costs are at issue. 

  • The cost is estimated to be at least $113,000, including a $10,000 contingency. However, the software contract is for time and materials rather than for a fixed cost. It is difficult for cities and counties to budget for time and materials contracts rather than fixed costs. Alameda County will pay for the software and be reimbursed by the cities and school districts according to the terms of a memorandum of understanding.

  • There must be agreements on how to address ongoing software maintenance costs.

  • There must be agreements on  how to address additional costs to run the elections since the Youth Vote will actually be a separate election run in parallel to the general election.


Links:


Pros/Cons of Measure QQ:


Informative Oakland Youth Vote video explaining the history of how the Oakland Youth Vote coalition came about, the context, how they organized, the passage of the measure and their plans for implementation:


Memo from LWV Alameda County Council to Alameda County Board of Supervisors regarding implementing Youth and Noncitizen Voting:




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