Californians could make some major changes to election law and civil rights statewide if they pass several key propositions on the ballot this fall. 

Proposition 16 would legalize affirmative action in California–repealing the ban voters approved on it 24 years ago–for state hiring, contracts and university admissions.

And an additional pair of propositions will expand voting rights:

  • Proposition 17 will allow people on parole to vote and run for office.
  • Proposition 18 will lower the voting age to 17 for primaries and special elections.

In the third of our “Props to You” election events, CalMatters talked to people on both sides of these measures about what the results, whether it’s a “Yes” or a “No” vote, may mean for Californians. The discussion happened on Oct. 8.

YouTube video

Prop 16 Discussion

Prop 16 would restore affirmative action in California — meaning universities and government offices could factor in someone’s race, gender or ethnicity when making hiring, spending and admissions decisions.

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CalMatters’ higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn moderated the conversation about Prop 16.


  • FOR Prop 16 – Thomas A. Saenz, president and general council of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • AGAINST Prop 16 – Gail Heriot, co-chair of Californians for Equal Rights

Prop 17 Discussion

Prop 17 would allow people on parole in California to vote.

YouTube video

The conversation on Proposition 17 was moderated by CalMatters reporter Elizabeth Castillo.


  • FOR Prop 17 – Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento)
  • AGAINST Prop 17 – Nina Salarno Besselman, executive director – Crime Victims United of California

Prop 18 Discussion

Prop 18 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will be 18 and eligible by the next general election.

YouTube video

Charlotte West, contributing education writer at CalMatters, moderated the discussion on Proposition 18.


  • Jason Chen, senior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, and Governmental Affairs Policy Director for the California Association of Student Councils
  • Tyler Okeke, youth organizer for Power California
  • Mindy Romero, founder and director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy

You can learn more about the state ballot measures and election candidates in our California 2020 Voter Guide. You can also watch our full playlist of videos that explains each proposition in one minute here.

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Vanessa is a former business journalist who has covered personal investing, venture capital, startups and business management for publications like Entrepreneur, Money, the San Francisco Business Times...