“At the age of 16, our society already gives young people greater legal responsibility. They can drive a car. They can work. Some are raising a family or helping their family make ends meet. They pay taxes,” Ward 6 Council member and sponsor Charles Allen said in a statement.
“Ironically, they pay fees to get a license plate that reads ‘Taxation Without Representation.’ I think it’s time to change that.”
The bill would remove the Board of Elections’ preregistration system and allow residents to register and vote starting on their 16th birthday in elections that include D.C. Council, mayor, State Board of Education, advisory neighborhood commission, congressional representative, shadow senator and president.
Takoma Park, Greenbelt and Hyattsville in Maryland allow residents to vote at age 16, but only in local races.
“All of those have seen record numbers of voter participation from those 16- and 17-year-olds, 40- and 50-percent turnout,” said Allen, who introduced similar legislation back in 2015.
And while that earlier proposal wasn’t successful, Allen said he believes adults are now more receptive to young voices, citing recent student walkouts as well as the March for Our Lives.
“Anybody listening right now can hear 16- and 17-year-old voices speak with power, speak with integrity,” he said.
Allen said he wants to see such measures catch on in other jurisdictions nationwide.
“I would love to see this be the spark that makes sure 16- and 17-year-olds can have their voices heard across the entire country,” he said. “I make decisions all day long that impact their lives. Why shouldn’t they have a right to be able to help hold me accountable and have a say in their own future?”
WTOP’s Melissa Howell contributed to this report.
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