For years, NYRA has worked to find one state or one community that would finally allow people younger than 18 to vote. On May 13, 2013 we achieved a breakthrough: Takoma Park, Maryland voted to be the first US city with a voting age of 16.
“Other nations, from Argentina to Austria, have allowed 16-year-olds to vote, but Takoma Park is the first city in the United States to achieve this level of democracy,” said NYRA Executive Director Bill Bystricky. “Takoma Park is leading the way to a brighter and more democratic future.”
When Takoma Park city council members Tim Male and Seth Grimes first introduced their proposal, they faced skepticism from other council members. But when local residents, many still in high school, turned out at city council meetings to voice their views, resistance melted and the council voted 6-1 in favor of the lower voting age, and the one member who voted against says he will work to help 16-year-olds get more involved in governance so they will be well-informed and ready to cast meaningful votes.
Will other cities soon follow in expanding democracy?
“Yes,” says Bystricky. “NYRA is already working with activists in Lowell, MA to lower their voting age, and other cities will soon follow. Now that Takoma Park has led the way, it will be easier to win this level of democracy across the nation as Americans grow more accustomed to 16-year-old voters.”
A big Thank You to every NYRA activist who helped make this happen, not just the activists who spoke in Takoma Park, but those who for years kept the fires burning and the idea spreading, from the heroes in NYRA-Berkeley who got the entire state of California debating a Votes for Youth proposal, to the quiet radicals who keep the discussion going in online forums. It took years of hard work for the idea of Votes for Youth to achieve this level of acceptance.
From here, the work will be easier with momentum pushing us forward, but the work still needs to be done. Let’s spread this victory across America.