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San Mateo County Assessor-Clerk-Recorder-Elections
Shape the Future. Vote!

Official Election Site of San Mateo County

MARK CHURCH, Chief Elections Officer & Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder

Youth Vote


youth vote


The 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971 and gave 18-20 year-olds the right to vote.


  • The 26th Amendment stemmed from the expressed resentment of youth that they were old enough to serve in Vietnam but not old enough to have a say about the elected officials that sent them there.  

  • The 26th Amendment experienced the fastest ratification in history, and granted the right to vote in all elections to 11 and a half million 18-20 year olds.

  • The 1972 Election was the first Presidential election in which 18 year olds could vote and 55% of 18-24 year old eligible voters cast ballots.

The 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:


Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.


Section 2.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


young VoterYouth voter turnout in the United States during recent national elections


  • Nationally, youth (18-24 years old) voter turnout in 2004 was 47%, compared to 66% for persons age 25 and over --- a difference of 19 percentage points.

  • Nationally, youth (18-24 years old) turnout in 2008 was 49%, compared to 66% for voters 25 and older.

  • California: turnout of 18-24 year old citizens in the 2004 Election was 45%, compared to 65% for voters 25 and older --- a difference of 20 percentage points.

  • California: turnout of 18-24 year old citizens in the 2000 Election was 19%, compared to 47% for persons over 25 --- a difference of 28 percentage points.

  • California: turnout of 18-24 year old citizens in 1972 (Presidential Election) was 63%, compared to 37% in 2000 and 45% in 2004. So, compared against 1972, youth voting in 2004 is down significantly (18 percentage points), but there was an increase of 8 percentage points from 2000 to 2004 so maybe things are trending upwards.

  • Comparing California to national numbers, turnout of 18-24 year old citizens in 1972 was 52% compared to 36% in 2000 and 47% in 2004. So, compared against 1972, youth voting in 2004 is down by a lesser margin (5 percentage points), and there was an increase of 11 percentage points between 2000 and 2004.

  • California used to be one of the leaders in youth voting --- 63% in 1972 ranked us 5th in the country, after Idaho (65%), Iowa (65%), Minnesota (64%), and Utah (70%).

  • For the 2004 Election, California youth turnout was 45%, putting us in a 3-way tie for 22nd among the states.

  • For the 2000 Election, California youth turnout was 37%, putting us in a tie for 18th among the states

  • Substantially fewer youth vote in nonpresidential election years, compared with presidential election years. Seventeen percent of youth voted in the 2002, nonpresidential election years, whereas 42 percent voted in the 2004 presidential election year.

(CIRCLE, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, By: Carrie Donovan, et al July 2005)


Young people opinions on the issues


What issues did young voters (18-29 years old) in the 2008 Presidential Election regard as a high priority?


  1. Creating Jobs 51%
  2. Gas Prices 50%
  3. Health Care 45%

What current events concern young people?


According to Harvard University’s Institute of Politics:


  1. 45% say that the economy will be the most important factor they consider when deciding which candidate to support for President.

  2. 54% support affirmative action programs for minorities and women for admissions to colleges and universities.

  3. 61% of college students oppose legalizing marijuana.

  4. 26% believe that abortion should be legal under any circumstances, 53% in some circumstances and 20% believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

  5. 81% agree that the government should take steps to prevent additional acts of terrorism but not if those steps would affect some of your basic civil liberties such a personal privacy or free speech.

Who can convince young people to vote?


Young adults see other young adults, other young politicians and the President as the most convincing messengers to convince them to vote.


 young voters in the worldYoung Voters in the World


Singapore: young voters make up 40 percent of the electorate and politicians reach out to them regularly.

Slovakia: politicians are "chasing first time voters."

Ireland: advocates are outraged at the poor state of voter registration lists and are calling for "immediate funds so that local authorities, census enumerators and postmen could call door-to-door to register all those eligible to vote."

Japan: the prime minister bolstered his power thanks to a strong and supportive voter turnout from young people.

Mexico: a Rock the Vote style campaign is underway for their election on July 2, as reported by Harp Magazine.

Jamaica: "A NEW generation has come of age in Jamaica and politicians ignore us at their own peril."


why voteWhy Vote?


  • Texas was admitted as the 28th state in 1845 by one vote.
  • When President James K. Polk asked the U.S. Senate for a Declaration of War against Mexico in 1846, the Senate sent the country to war by just one vote!
  • Alaska became a state in 1867 by one vote.
  • One vote in 1920 gave women the right to vote.
  • One vote made Adolph Hitler the leader of Germany’s Nazi Party.
  • Thomas E. Dewey would have won the 1948 presidential election if he had had one more vote in each precinct in California and Ohio.
  • John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960 by a margin of less than one vote per precinct nationwide.
  • Only 537 votes in Florida decided the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.

Compiled by Florida Atlantic University (www.fau.edu)


“We fought for democracy and we have gotten it, now is the time to practice it. The only way to practice democracy is to exercise your power to vote!”


-Redeemer Amedzekor; January, 2005, City College of New York


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Registration & Elections Division
40 Tower Road, San Mateo, CA 94402
Phone: (650) 312-5222
Fax: (650) 312-5348
Email: registrar@smcare.org


Assistance for Voters with Disabilities:

Dial 711 For Telecommunications Relay Service
Phone: 1 (888) 762-8683
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Phone: 1 (888) 762-8683 or 1 (888) SMC-VOTE