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D.C. Councilmembers Charles Allen, David Grosso, and Brianne Nadeau want you to listen to what D.C.’s teens have to say—by letting more of them vote in local elections.
The Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015, which will be introduced to the Council today, would lower the voting age in D.C. to 16. The two-page bill essentially overwrites “18” in D.C.’s 1955 election code, such that it requires a voting individual to be “at least 16 years of age.” If passed, the legislation would make D.C. the largest city in the U.S. to let 16-year-olds officially participate in the democratic process.
In a statement, Allen, who championed the bill, explains:
The age of 16 has an important place in our society. It is an age where we remove, generally, the mantle of childhood and instead apply many expectations of adulthood. We do this by conveying a whole spectrum of rights and duties at the time a person turns 16 years of age.
Citing examples, Allen notes that American 16-year-olds can drive, pay taxes if employed, consent to some medical procedures without parental approval, and be considered adults in criminal trials. “These are not frivolous rights or obligations—in fact, many involve weight decisions we give a 16-year-old the responsibility to make for themselves,” he continues.
The National Youth Rights Association, a nonprofit organization with roughly 10,000 members, supports the bill. Takoma Park has allowed 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections since 2013; Hyattsville followed suit in January of this year.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery