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.”
Bevan-Dangel said she hopes other cities will seriously consider lowering their voting age as well, and she doesn’t think Takoma Park will be the last to make such a change.
“Where a city is brave enough to make a step like this, others will follow,” she said.
During an April 8 public hearing on the voting age amendment, testimony included young Takoma Park residents who cited their readiness and eagerness to participate in city elections, as well as other residents who said the teenagers lacked the maturity and experience to handle the responsibility and that they would be easily influenced by their parents.
John Mannes, student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, said the right granted to the city’s 16- and 17-year-olds sets a precedent and has implications “much broader than Takoma Park.”