Vote16 Palo Alto: New teen group advocates for student voting rights in school board elections

Text and video by Emma Donelly-Higgins
Photos by Jasmine Venet
Additional reporting by Sasha Poor and Jasmine Venet

A group of rising Palo Alto High School juniors and seniors gather around a large conference table at the Rinconada Library. This is Vote16 Palo Alto, a new student led organization with the goal of lowering the voting age for Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education elections to 16 through a social media campaign and petition.

“The Board of Education makes decisions that are affecting students every single day and the students never really get a voice in these decisions,” rising senior and Vote16 PA founder Miranda Li says.

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YOUTH MOVEMENT Vote16 PA members gather together in the Rinconada Library teen conference room to discuss plans to gain signatures on their petition. “What we are doing at this meeting is just talking about where we’re gonna campaign,” rising junior Rachel Owens (left) explains. “We’re thinking about starting a club at Paly … going door-to-do, going outside Trader Joe’s. I think right now it’s just about bringing awareness to what it is.”
SPREADING AWARENESS Seven of the nine total Vote16 PA members meet to discuss how they can spread awareness of their movement. “A 16-year-old is just as capable as a 21-year-old when it comes to voting,” rising junior Josephine Andersen (right) says. “16-year-olds across the country in most states are able to drive, are able to pay taxes if they have an income. They can be charged as adults and so I mean why not vote?”
GETTING EDUCATED Rising senior Frida Rivera (center) laughs as she sets up the Vote16 PA Facebook page. As the incoming Senior Class President for the Associated Student Body and an Editor-in-Chief for The Campanile, a school newspaper, she says getting students educated about the Board of Education is important to her. “One thing that I really wanted to implement for next year was having a similar update from ASB but from the board,” she says. “I think that’s something that if I picked up the newspaper and I saw that I would really wanna read that.”
AGING VOTERS United States Census Bureau data from the 2018 United States midterm election shows that younger generations are far less likely to vote or register to vote than older generations. “There are studies that show that when kids get involved [in elections] starting on an earlier age it increases their chances of voting in the future,” Owens says.
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