Under 18, But Want Your Political Voice Heard? California's Listening

'Training Wheels for Citizenship' plan would give teens a partial vote.

If a group of California lawmakers gets its way, Golden State teens under the age of 18 may soon get the right to vote. According to the proposal, ballots cast by these underage voters would count as one half or one quarter of an adult vote.

The four lawmakers, led by State Senator John Vasconcellos, proposed an amendment to California's Constitution Monday that would grant 16- and 17-year-olds a half vote and 14- and 15-year-olds a quarter vote. The votes would be valid for state elections only.

Explaining the plan, Vasconcellos, a Democrat from Santa Clara, told The Associated Press that teens today are essentially more informed than ever before, thanks to the Internet, advancements in television, cell phones and a society that is simply more diverse.

"When we gave the vote to those who didn't own property, then to women, then to persons of all colors, we added to the richness of our democratic dialogue and our own nation's integrity and its model for the world," he told the AP, noting that it was time to further extend the vote.

The plan, which Vasconcellos calls "Training Wheels for Citizenship," needs two-thirds' approval by the legislature to appear on the November ballot.

Republicans immediately bashed the plan. "To waste taxpayer money having children cast votes would be ridiculous at any time, but in the face of our current fiscal crisis, it's an obscenity," State Senator Ross Johnson, a Republican from Irvine, told the Los Angeles Times.

Vasconcellos and his three peers in California aren't the only ones who think teens would make solid voters. Plans have been proposed to lower the voting age in Great Britain as well. In Austria and Germany 16-year-olds can already vote, and in Israel, 17-year-olds can vote.

For more political news, insight into the 2004 presidential election and information on registering to vote, check out Choose or Lose.