Plan for youth vote in Oakland, Berkeley school board elections moves forward

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After years of delays, 16- and 17-year-olds in Oakland and Berkeley will finally get a chance to vote in school board elections.

With an eye toward the upcoming November general election, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a $113,000 contract increase with a third-party election services company and to add six positions in the Registrar of Voters’ office.

The supervisors’ approval comes four years after 68 percent of Oakland voters approved Measure QQ, and eight years after Berkeley voters approved Measure Y1, both of which authorize the youth vote in those cities.

“I am fully supportive of this effort to make sure that we meet the voters’ directives after eight years,” Supervisor Lena Tam said.

The decision will allow the county’s elections officials to add the necessary software upgrades and “to provide year-round support for youth voting, elections processing, canvassing, voter file maintenance, special election billing and youth voting activities,” according to a report from Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis. Prior to the vote, Sara Tiras of the Oakland Youth Commission urged supervisors to move forward with the plan.

“Our City Council members, our mayor, they’ve expressed their unwavering support over the last four years and their expectation that you, the Board of Supervisors and the registrar, need to get this implemented by the next election,” Tiras said. “In addition, we’ve recently launched a civic engagement curriculum in our Oakland high schools to get our youth informed, registered and ready to vote.”

“We are not here today talking about whether the youth vote is right or wrong, we are not here to talk about whether the election system can or cannot be modified,” said Pecolia Manigo of Oakland Rising Action prior to the supervisors’ decision. “You have a choice to help move this process forward, to adhere to the will of the voters.”

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