Last week, the Takoma Park City Council voted 6-1 to change its charter to become the first city in America to lower the voting age to 16. While we are the first city to adopt this policy, we have little doubt that others will follow. Maryland already has been a national leader in extending voting rights to younger voters when it opened its primaries years ago to 17-year-olds. That practice has spread to more than 20 states, and the case for a lower voting age in local elections is similarly strong. The context for action was an accompanying measure backing an affirmative right to vote in the Constitution and local actions in support of suffrage. A task force will address why — like many cities, including Baltimore — Takoma Park has local election turnout rates below 20 percent, with large disparities based on age and neighborhood. The city will also establish Election Day voter registration and extend voting rights to more people with past felony convictions, and may adopt Minnesota’s policy of ensuring that candidates have access to apartment buildings to talk with residents.
Articles about voting issues in Maryland.
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. 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. Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director for the political advocacy organization Common Cause Maryland, said the city’s decision marks “a really important step forward” and “a perfect way to get the youth vote mobilized.”
A national movement to grant more teens the right to vote scored its first victory this week with the passage of legislation in Takoma Park, to lower the voting age in municipal elections to 16. But momentum continued Wednesday as advocates in Massachusetts spoke at the State House in favor of allowing 17-year-olds to vote. Activists have made a number of attempts across the country in recent years to grant more teens access to the polls. They point to the change in Takoma Park as a potential springboard for movements elsewhere. “This is, in legislation terms, the first real big step,” said Jeffrey Nadel, president of the D.C.-based National Youth Rights Association, which lobbied for the legislation in Takoma Park. “We’re excited that this will be the spark that lights the fuse for change across the country.”
If you’re old enough to drive, are you old enough to vote? You soon will be if you live in Takoma Park, Md. The famously progressive suburb of Washington has just extended voting rights in municipal elections to 16- and 17-year-olds. Takoma Park was the first city in the country to take such a step, but its action is part of a larger trend toward letting people vote earlier. ”We’re not the first community to talk about the idea and I doubt we’ll be the last to adopt it,” says city council member Tim Male, a cosponsor of the measure, which passed on Monday. The Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday held a hearing on the question of allowing municipalities to extend the franchise to citizens younger than 18, as the Lowell city council has twice attempted to do.
All councilmembers and the mayor are up for re-election in Takoma Park, and they’ll now have to answer to a new constituency. “It’s a small place and we’re trying to make it possible for more people to part of our city government,” says Councilman Tim Male. Councilman Male is one of six councilmembers who voted for the measure that passed, allowing 16 and 17 year olds, along with convicted felons who have served their time, to vote in city elections beginning this November.
After three years of delay, Maryland elections officials are finally replacing the state’s aging touch-screen voting machines with ones that can optically scan paper ballots in time for the 2016 presidential election. However, an April 12 story in the Maryland Reporter noted that they are planning to spend virtually all of the $1.2 million budgeted for the transition on just five outside contractors. Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, who previously stated that the switch would occur “over my dead body,” has recommended paying the yet-to-be-hired senior project manager $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each, and a technical writer $170,000 for just nine months of work.
Maryland: Contractor salaries questioned as state moves to paper ballot voting system | Maryland Reporter
State election officials are planning to spend up to $1.2 million to hire just five contractors working for nine months, a high-dollar figure that has shocked key lawmakers and voter advocacy groups watching as the state transitions from touch-screen voting to paper ballots. The transition, which is scheduled for the 2016 presidential elections, will move the state from computerized voting without a paper trail to optical scan paper ballots. Under the recommendation of State Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, the state budgeted $1.2 million for the five positions handling the initial transition. The elections budget calls for the senior project manager position to receive up to $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each and a technical writer $170,000. The budget figures are estimates, since the elections board has not yet selected contractors. … State Election Board Deputy Administrator Ross Goldstein defended the expenses. In an email, he stated that the state estimated the cost using an existing state agency master contract for consulting and technical services. In that contract, vendors stated how much they will charge for a given service. “We used an average from different vendors under the master contract to come up with our estimates for each of the labor categories we need,” Goldstein stated.
Maryland: General Assembly close to passing bill expanding early voting, allowing same-day registration | Capital Gazette
The General Assembly is close to passing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to expand early voting and allow for same-day registration. The House of Delegates voted 103-35 to pass Senate Bill 279, Election Law — Improving Access to Voting. The Senate passed a similar bill in March. If the Senate concurs with the bill, it will head to O’Malley’s desk. If a conference committee is needed to work out the differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill, both chambers must agree on the same bill by April 8, the scheduled last day of the General Assembly’s 90-day session.
The measure will give Marylanders two more early voting days. It will also allow people to register to vote and immediately cast ballots at early voting centers, and give them the opportunity to obtain absentee ballots online.
A bill currently being discussed in the state legislator would require voters to show identification at the polls to be able to cast a ballot.
House Bill 137, introduced on Jan. 17 by a number of delegates, would prevent individuals without a government-issued photo ID, voter notice card or specimen ballot from voting on a regular ballot. Such individuals would then be able to fill out a provisional ballot. Voters currently must state their name upon arriving to vote, at which an election judge checks to confirm if the would-be voter is on the election register or the inactive list. Individuals who are in one of these indexes may then vote on a regular ballot. Delegate Michael Smigiel (R-Cecil), one of the sponsors of the bill, said the proposal is intended to prevent voter fraud from becoming an issue.