Leaders in Rockville, Maryland, are considering the idea of lowering the voting age for local elections from 18 to 16 years old.
It would follow in the footsteps of other Maryland communities that have done the same thing, including Takoma Park, which in 2013 became the first city in the country to lower its voting age to 16.
“We were looking at making changes to try to increase the number of voters that participated in city elections,” said Tim Male, who was a member of the Takoma Park City Council from 2011 to 2017.
Male was one of the main advocates who pushed for the change.
“I started digging into the topic, which hadn’t been done yet in the United States, but is not uncommon in the rest of the world,” Male said. “It just seemed like a great idea.”
While critics of the idea say younger people aren’t mature enough to vote, Male argued that 16- and 17-year-olds drive, have jobs and care about their communities.
“There are a whole bunch of issues that matter to them and what we found out in Takoma Park was that they vote in really high numbers,” Male said.
Other Maryland towns that have lowered the voting age to 16 for local elections include Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Mount Rainier and Riverdale Park.
Male said that if Rockville were to lower its voting age, it would “become maybe the biggest in the country in terms of the size of the city and the number of 16- and 17-year-olds who could vote.”
Rockville leaders plan to hold public hearings in the coming weeks as they consider the idea.
In 2018, the D.C. Council decided not to move forward with legislation that would have given 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the nation’s capital.
That was despite a report on the bill from the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which argued that because 16-year-olds can take on “adult” responsibilities, they should be afforded the ability to influence an election.