DC Democrats Want To Lower The Legal Voting Age

Josh Fatzick | Reporter

The D.C. Council made plans in early 2015 to let non-citizens vote in local elections, now the body wants to let 16-year-olds vote, too.

Democrat Councilman Charles Allen introduced legislation at the Tuesday legislative meeting that would lower the voting age in the city to 16.

“The age of 16 has an important place in our place in our society. It’s an age where we remove the mantle of childhood and instead apply more expectations of adulthood,” Allen said in introducing the bill.

Allen said people can do things like drive a car, be employed and pay taxes or appear in court at the age of 16, but they can’t vote, and he doesn’t think that is right.

“How can we then say that a 16 year old is incapable of casting a vote for an elected official or an initiative?” Allen asked. The bill would allow 16-year-olds to vote in both federal and local elections, a right that is not bestowed upon 16-year-olds in any other state or municipality.

Allen said the point of the bill is set young people up to be engaged in the civic process during a time where they are learning about it in school. That way, he said, they will stay engaged throughout their lives.

“The question in my mind is not why to do this, but why not?” Allen said.

Allen pointed to Takoma Park, Md., a liberal enclave just north of the district as an example of another municipality that has opened up voting to young people. The city passed a law two years ago that allows 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections.

Two other council members, David Grosso and Brianne Nadeau, co-sponsored the legislation.

The council, which is made up entirely of Democrats or former Democrats who switched their party affiliation to skirt laws that ensure at-large council seats will go to non-majority party candidates, took up legislation that would give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections.

The bill would allow permanent residents in the city who are not American citizens to vote in elections for mayor, city council, the attorney general and State Board of Education members, among other things.

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