Should 16-year-olds be able to vote in city elections? Rockville residents sound off

Should 16- and 17-year-olds be allowed to vote?

A city in Montgomery County, Maryland, is looking at adding younger people to voter rolls for city-wide elections. Residents of Rockville voiced their opinion about the move during a city council meeting Monday night.

“We get jobs in the city, we live in the city, we drive on Rockville roads, and we deserve the right to vote for decisions that are made in our city,” said Becca Fulton, a high school sophomore speaking to Rockville’s mayor and city council. “We are educated, we are informed and we will make the choices that we think are best for our community.”

She was one of dozens of Rockville residents who testified during the public comment about the proposed charter amendment.

Among other changes, such as ranked-choice voting and allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, the Rockville City Council is contemplating lowering the voting age for city elections to 16 rather than 18.

Rosie Clemans-Cope is 14, but she said she would like to vote in two years.

“This is an incredible opportunity … for Rockville youth to develop a sense of civic responsibility and increase our interest and engagement in the political process of democracy,” she said.

Younger voters are not the only advocates of the move. Many over the legal age also voiced support.

“I rise in strong support of redefining an eligible voter for city elections as anyone 16 years and older who has resided in Rockville for at least six months,” said Marisa Valarie, who served on the city’s charter review commission. “I believe that this is the morally right thing to do, and that our democracy can only benefit from expanding voter eligibility.”

She continued, “Young people are not less educated on policy issues, nor less capable of making a decision on who to vote for than anyone else. Many are already engaged in volunteering for candidates and issues that they feel passionate about.”

Others are not keen on the idea, pointing to a lack of maturity of many high school students.

“If you think age 16 is OK, why not consider 15?” said one Rockville resident. “There are restrictions for 16-year-old drivers and there are good reasons for that. Young adults under 18 are the responsibility of parents. Experts say that 16- and 17-year-olds demonstrate lower interest in politics, have less political knowledge and lack real-life experience needed to participate in the elections.”

“I do think it is important to have enough life experience to read something on a referendum and make an informed choice,” chimed in another.

Other cities in Maryland have already made the move, including Takoma Park, which allowed 16-year-olds to vote nearly a decade ago.

The Rockville City Council will again discuss lowering the age later this month, but no vote has been scheduled. The decision may be pushed to a referendum for voters.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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