Maryland Town Grants 16 Year-Olds The Right To Vote
Takoma Park, a Maryland suburb just outside Washington, D.C., has granted teenagers the right to vote in town elections:
When Takoma Park’s next Election Day arrives in November, the lines of voters ready to cast their ballots for the City Council will include a new set of voters making history.
During its Monday meeting, the Takoma Park City Council passed a series of city charter amendments regarding its voting and election laws, including one allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in city elections.
The other adopted charter changes include those allowing felons who have served their sentence of incarceration to vote and same-day voter registration.
With Monday’s vote, Takoma Park became the first city in the United States to lower its voting age — which was previously 18 — to 16.
The voting age amendment brought out young residents to an April 8 public hearing where they cited their readiness and eagerness to participate in the city’s elections.
Other residents argued, however, that the teenagers lacked the maturity and experience to handle the responsibility and that they would be easily influenced by their parents.
Before he voted in support of the charter amendments, Mayor Bruce Williams said that, while he originally had not been convinced the change was a good one, he agreed with the argument that lowering the voting age could help residents establish a lifelong habit of voting.
Councilman Seth Grimes said that, after hearing and soliciting city residents’ opinions, he was not convinced by the arguments some presented that the young residents lacked maturity and that parents might influence their children’s political decisions.
“I just don’t buy it, and I don’t buy that we should be motivated by fear of the downside,” Grimes said.
For Councilman Tim Male, who initiated the council’s voting age discussion, the amendment “is a great step forward” in a set of important charter changes.
“We have many 16- and 17-year-olds in our community who care deeply about this place” and are deeply engaged in politics, Male said.
Personally, I’m not convinced. Yes, you can argue that it’s a good idea to develop an interest in voting at an early age, but I can’t get beyond the fact that these kids are still, well, kids and arguably don’t have the same incentives and understanding of the issues as adults do. Eighteen may be an arbitrary number to decide when someone is an adult, but it’s one that has worked well for us and I don’t see any reason to change it.
Incidentally, this law will not impact any other voter registration laws, so teenagers will still be ineligible to vote in state and federal elections.