Councilmember Anita Bonds after her 2018 election night victory
Councilmember Anita Bonds after her 2018 election night victory Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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First, Councilmember Anita Bonds co-introduced a bill that would give 16- and 17-year-olds in the District the right to vote.

Then, she voted to table the bill, effectively killing it for the 2018 legislative session. 

And then, in front of a room packed with D.C. changemakers last night, Bonds presented an award to those youth whose dreams of enfranchisement she helped crush.

Bonds stood for a photo op along side the 16- and 17-year-olds and congratulated them for their efforts during her fourth annual Community Cornerstones Recognition Ceremony, where she recognized 50 people and organizations for their contributions to the District. A few of the other honorees of the evening included retired MPD Commander David Taylor, statehood advocate Anise Jenkins, newsman Bruce Johnson, former At-Large Council candidate and Ward 8 business owner Dionne Reeder, and many others.

The youth advocates who pushed to lower the voting age in D.C. to 16 are part of an advocacy group called Vote16. In the evening’s program, Bonds writes that the Vote16 teens “have shown that youth are ready for this important responsibility and highlight the many issues they believe D.C. leaders must address to improve the lives of everyone in the District—affordable housing, gun violence, education, public transportation, homelessness, job opportunities, racial justice, and more.”

She continued, saying the teens “demonstrated the importance of young voices,” but that the “D.C. Council ultimately voted to table the bill this year,” while conveniently neglecting to mention that her flip flop was crucial to killing the bill.

After the photos, 17-year-old advocate Jenny Gonzalez stepped up to the podium, thanked Bonds for the recognition, and subtly reminded the room of the tasty contradiction at play.

“Although we’re disappointed with the councilmember for tabling our bill, we’ll need Anita Bonds’ support in the hearing next year in 2019,” Gonzalez said. “So thank you.”

After the ceremony, Gonzalez, a student at Woodrow Wilson High School, told LL that the Council’s decision to table the bill this year has only strengthened the teenage advocates’ drive to push for their right to vote.

“We’re not done, and we’re never going to be done, honestly,” she said. “Once we get this bill passed in D.C., we’re going to look at other cities.”

Bonds’ staffers were not immediately available for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back from them.

Had it passed, the bill would have made D.C. the first jurisdiction in the nation to allow people under 18 the right to vote in presidential elections.

Other nearby jurisdictions such as Takoma Park, Hyattsville, and Greenbelt have enacted similar measures, but only allow young people to vote in municipal elections. Youth voting rights efforts by Vote16, of which Gonzalez is a part, are underway throughout the country.

In D.C., Councilmember Jack Evans led the charge to table the bill in November. Along with Bonds, Councilmembers Brandon Todd, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffieTrayon White and Chairman Phil Mendelson all agreed. White was also a co-sponsor on the initial bill.