Turning 16 is considered a milestone. In many states, it means being able to drive, pay taxes and work like an adult. In Washington, D.C., 16-year-olds could soon take on another responsibility: the right to vote in a presidential election. Michelle Blackwell is helping lead the effort to enfranchise teenagers in the nation’s capital. But she’s not your typical Washington politico. In D.C., the 44-year-old is better known as one of the top go-go singers around. “Go-go is one of the indigenous genres of music — born right in this city,” says Blackwell of the percussive brand of funk music that originated in Washington in the late 1960s. But off stage, she’s now helping lead the effort to make D.C. the first jurisdiction to let 16-year-olds vote in federal elections.
“A lot of young people feel very powerless and they don’t feel that their voice matters,” Blackwell says, “and that’s part of the reason why there might be this absence of young participation as adults.”
In the 2014 elections, voter turnout among people under age 30 hit its lowest level in 40 years, according to the Center for Information and Research on Learning and Engagement.