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.”
The measure, passed Monday by the Takoma Park City Council, required local lawmakers to amend the city’s charter and included a number of initiatives, such as a provision that allows same-day voter registration and another that restores the rights of felons who have completed their sentences to vote in local elections. Council members said the legislation was meant to engage more of the city’s approximately 17,000 residents in elections.
“The progressive politics of our community led us to take these steps,” said Takoma Park Council member Seth Grimes, one of the initial sponsors of the legislation. “What I have seen here in Takoma Park is a large number of informed, engaged teenagers.”
The city has long been known for embracing liberal initiatives, allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote in municipal elections and declaring itself a “nuclear-free zone.”
Though Takoma Park teenagers are the first to successfully lower the voting age, a cast of equally civic-minded teenagers from Lowell, Mass., was busy Wednesday lobbying for the same right.