It is happening! District of Columbia Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau and David Grosso today are introducing a bill today to lower the voting age to 16 in DC elections. Washington, DC would be the largest city in the nation to have a 16-year-old voting age. NYRA-DC has been working with local activist Michelle Blackwell from Our C.A.P.S. who has been leading the effort to get this bill introduced. She has met with several DC Councilmembers in the last month, many of whom sound supportive. After meeting with Councilmember Charles Allen, he was so impressed with the arguments in favor of lowering the voting age that his office started working on drafting a bill immediately. This is a statement from his office regarding the merits of lowering the voting age:
Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015
The age of 16 has an important place in our society. It is an age where we remove, generally, the mantle of childhood and instead apply many expectations of adulthood. We do this by conveying a whole spectrum of rights and duties at the time a person turns 16 years of age. For example, at 16, an individual may:
- Drive a car;
- Be employed, and if employed, pay taxes on those earnings;
- Receive service of process in court matters;
- File a petition for civil protection on his or her own behalf;
- Consent to certain medical treatment without approval of a parent or guardian;
- Serve as an election poll worker; and
- Be charged as an adult in certain criminal cases.
These are not frivolous rights or obligations – in fact, many involve weighty decisions we give a 16-year old the responsibility to make for themselves. How can we then say that a 16-year-old is incapable of casting a vote for an elected official or an initiative? Incapable of participating in the very government that believes they are capable of paying taxes or standing for themselves in court?
As a government, we are holding 16-year-old youth accountable for wide array of decisions and responsibilities, but we do not grant them a meaningful voice in these issues. The Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015 aims to do just that – by lowering the voting age to 16, we can bring our young people directly into the political process and, hopefully, create lifelong voters.
We hear frequently that young people are disconnected from their government and their city. This is one way to help connect them and by allowing them to engage in their government – a government and history they are actively learning about in school – we have a better chance of keeping them engaging in this civic responsibility as they get older.
The District would not be alone in lowering the voting age to 16. From several democratic nations to our neighbor Takoma Park, 16 year olds are participating in the political process. In the District, we stand firmly behind the claim of “No taxation without representation” and this should apply to our 16 and 17-year-old residents as well. The question should not be why do this, but rather, why not?
NYRA is VERY excited about this bill and plan to do everything we can to see it get passed. If you live in the District of Columbia, please write your councilmember and tell them to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015!