Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, May 16, 2013
For teenagers in one suburban D.C. town, turning 16 is not just a milestone for getting your drivers’ license anymore.
On Monday, the Takoma Park, Md. City Council voted 6-1 to allow teens as young as 16 to vote in city elections, becoming the first city nationwide to allow minors to vote in political elections.
“It’s a small place and we’re trying to make it possible for more people to part of our city government,” Councilman Tim Male, who voted in favor of the measure, told WJLA-TV. “It’s not true for all 16 and 17 year olds, just as it isn’t true for all adults, but there is a significant set of them who are very engaged.”
Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams told the Washington Post that he was not originally sold on the concept of letting 16-year-olds vote, he felt that it would be beneficial in getting Americans into the habit of voting.
Teenagers in the primarily Democratic town of 17,000 also agree that the lowered voting age will help get more of their peers involved in their community.
“If I had been voting when I was 16, I would have had two more years to be active in the community,” Julianna Jimreivat told WJLA-TV.
“I think it’s a very politically active community,” added Lara Skibbie. “I certainly would have voted if I had the opportunity at 16.”
The lone councilmember to vote against the measure did so because he felt the matter was so serious that it should have been enacted via referendum.
“The charter we have today is something that has evolved over scores and scores of years, and it’s not something to be tampered with lightly,” Councilman Fred Schultz told the Post.
There has been a push for years to lower the voting age to 16 nationwide. According to the National Youth Rights Association, lowering the voting age to 16 will help increase turnout and force politicians to be more receptive to their political concerns.
“Other nations, from Argentina to Austria, have allowed 16-year-olds to vote, but Takoma Park is the first city in the United States to achieve this level of democracy,” NYRA Executive Director Bill Bystricky said in response to the Takoma Park vote. “Takoma Park is leading the way to a brighter and more democratic future.”