Teenagers 16 and 17 years old will be eligible to vote in Oakland Unified School District school board elections if Measure QQ passes in November.

Passage of the measure would allow the Oakland City Council to adopt an ordinance allowing the two groups of teens to vote for school board members.

This election, there are about 261,000 registered voters in Oakland, all of whom can vote in school district elections. Currently, about 4,800 teens also could vote if the measure had already passed. The teens make up less than 2% of the total number of voters, but students and advocates say they deserve representation.

“Decisions that are made at the school board impact their education” and their futures, said Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents teachers and staff in the school district and is supporting the measure.

Brown is a social studies teacher and has stressed the importance of voting.

“As educators we want to prepare our students to take part in a democratic society, politics and civic engagement,” Brown said.

No one submitted an argument against Measure QQ and all of the City Council members have expressed support for the idea, said Jessica Ramos, a 17-year-old senior at Skyline High School who worked on the effort to get the measure on the ballot.

Ramos paid taxes last year, she said, so she feels she should be heard.

“Basically, it’s taxation without representation,” she said if she doesn’t have the chance to vote.

According to the League of Women Voters, Tacoma Park, Maryland, lowered its voting age and allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in 2013. Turnout among that group was higher than any other age group.

Berkeley voters in 2016 passed Measure Y1, which allows the City Council to pass an ordinance that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections.

“The decisions that the school board makes have a direct impact on students,” said Bethany Meyer, spokeswoman for the Oakland Education Association.

Measure QQ would not allow any other changes to voter eligibility in Oakland. Passage of the measure requires a majority of voters to vote “yes.”

The Oakland City Auditor’s Office said the measure would cost the city about $7,000 to $10,000 in the years of school board elections. The earliest 16- and 17-year-olds would be able to vote is 2022, if the measure passes.

Proponents of the measure say in their argument that Oakland’s youth are leading movements surrounding gun violence, climate change and Black Lives Matter.

“We always say the youth shall lead the way,” Meyer said.

Proponents also say that Oakland youths need a vote so they can advocate for their education, which is the most important issue they face.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.