High school students marched to protest for gun control after the Parkland shooting in Florida and soon they might be marching straight to the voting booth in the nation’s capital. Washington is on track to become the first place in the country to allow people as young as 16 to vote in federal elections, including for president, as the nation glimpses the emerging political power of the generation that follows millennials. It’s part of a burgeoning movement in the U.S. and abroad as a growing number of cities and states consider ways to expand voting rights to younger people.
“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. They pay taxes,” said D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, a Democrat who introduced the bill last week to lower the voting age. “And yet, they can’t exercise their voice where it matters most — at the ballot box.”
A majority of the D.C. Council, as well as Mayor Muriel Bowser, have already signed onto the bill. The Washington Post has editorialized for passage, arguing that the promotion of civic engagement outweighs concerns about life experience or precedent.
It’s a dramatic turnaround from just three years ago, when Allen introduced a similar bill that went nowhere.