Recently, San Francisco officials announced a desire to shift the date of elections for purposes of increasing voter participation. San Jose is already pursuing this via Measure B this June primary election. We believe this is a common sense reform for democracy, and here’s why.
Three years ago, Santa Clara County declared a climate emergency to “demand immediate action to halt, reverse, restore and address the consequences and causes of global warming”—an intense characterization just short of declaring a war on climate change.
Despite emission reductions in some sectors, we just aren’t doing enough here in the South Bay to ensure our future generations will have a livable planet. As young people and activists involved in the Sunrise movement, we believe Measure B is an important step toward meeting the realistic scale of the problem.
Measure B will shift future mayoral races to presidential years, when far more young people are likely to vote—for whom climate change is a major looming anxiety. Research from San Jose State found overall turnout would increase by 30%—155,000 voters—if we elect our mayor during presidential years.
For young folks, this positive boost is even more pronounced. Data from Political Data Inc. shows 150% more 18-24 year olds casted ballots in the past several presidential elections on average, compared to the prior midterm election. Measure B would allow San Jose to lead the way in expanding voting rights, as cities across the country implement complex voter rules that hinder the likelihood that Gen Z will cast a ballot.
While pretty much all of our local electeds agree on the severity of climate change, their actions do not always reflect this. For example, the South Bay has remarkably high rates of transportation emissions, constituting the plurality even—due to our over reliance on automobiles.
But how many steps have our leaders actually taken to get our communities out of cars? Among young people, there is a strong belief in the need to make this happen as soon as possible. But politicians are more likely to pursue climate change solutions that are politically popular, an inconvenient truth in our mayoral races, where few young people vote.
If our mayoral candidates had to work overtime to appeal to young voters, their messaging and goals around climate change would likely be far more bold. They would be willing to take different positions that don’t cost them large swaths of the electorate.
Young people around the world have been rising up and striking to fight for a livable future.
We, as a global society, are at a crossroads. We have a decision to make. Are we going to choose money or power, or are we going to choose the future? Striking for climate is not an invitation, but a demand—to choose us. Choose youth. Choose lives. Choose our beautiful world. Choose the future.
Jupiter Polevoi and Ella Norman are the Political Team co-leads at Sunrise Silicon Valley. Jupiter is a sophomore at Westmont High School and Ella is a sophomore at Stanford University.
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