WASHINGTON — A bill that would lower the voting age for District residents from 18 to 16 cleared a committee hurdle Thursday and will advance to the full D.C. Council for a final vote.
If it passes, the nation’s capital would become the first municipality in the country to allow minors to vote in all elections, including presidential races.
Three Maryland jurisdictions — Takoma Park, Greenbelt and Hyattsville — previously lowered their voting age to 16 but only for local elections.
“Many 16-year-olds shoulder adult responsibilities and burdens,” said Council member Charles Allen, who introduced the bill in April. “They do have skin in the game in their communities. They pay taxes, they have jobs and they drive on our city streets.”
The legislation passed through the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on a vote of 3-0.
“This bill will enfranchise the District’s young people and bring their voices into the political process,” said Allen.
Allen unsuccessfully introduced the measure in 2015 and revived it this year, inspired by high school student protests against gun violence following the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
A public hearing in June drew dozens of young people to the Wilson Building to testify in favor of the measure.
About 70 people testified in support of the bill and nobody testified against it, according to Allen.
Supporters claim young people vote at higher rates than adults when they are given the chance, and that teens who are allowed to vote are more likely to develop a lifelong habit of voting.
Opponents argue that young people are not educated enough on the issues and are likely to simply vote however their parents vote.
“Those arguments have been completely eviscerated,” Allen said.
More than 10,000 16- and 17-year-old residents would be added to the voting rolls if the measure is passed by the full council and signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The full council is expected to take up the bill later this month.