The voting age in Washington D.C. could be dropping by a couple of years, thanks to the work of a D.C. council member who wants to “empower young voices” by proposing legislation that would allow 16-year-olds to vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Democratic D.C. Council member Charles Allen originally proposed the legislation in 2015, but it didn’t gain much traction. After students at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School, and other schools around the country, marched against gun violence following the Parkwood, Fla. shooting massacre, Allen was inspired to introduce the Youth Voting Amendment Act of 2018, last Tuesday (April 10).
This time around, Allen has the backing of just over a dozen council members along with several organizations including DC Action for Children, Young Women’s Project, Latin American Youth Center, Break the Cycle, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Whitman Walker Health Clinic, Generation Citizen, and the National Youth Rights Association.
“At the age of 16, our society already gives young people greater legal responsibility, they can drive a car. They can work. Some are raising a family or helping their family make ends meet, ” Allen said in a statement. “They pay taxes, and yet, they can’t exercise their voice where it matters most — at the ballot box.”
Other jurisdictions, including Takoma Park, Greenbelt, and Hyattsville in Maryland, allow residents to vote in local elections at the age of 16.
If approved, D.C. would become the first place in the nation where 16-year-old voters would be able to cast ballots in both local and federal elections. The last time voting rules were changed was in 1971 when President Richard Nixon amended the Voting Rights Act, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years old.