Takoma Park allows teens to take to the polls

TAKOMA PARK, Md. – Takoma Park will make U.S. history this election season as 16 and 17-year olds head to city polling places.

City Councilman Seth Grimes helped make the change happen.

“We have some really engaged kids, youth, around here in Takoma Park,” he said. “People who care deeply about what happens in their city.”

“I would bet you that we’re going to get a higher rate of turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds than we get among adults,” said Grimes, who along with Councilman Tim Male moved the bill through the council.

Nick Byron, 17, goes to Montgomery-Blair High School and helped push for the change.

“We’re as much a part of the community and affected by the changes taking place and the choices made,” Byron said.

For Byron, “this is an awesome way to be involved.”

Teens will be allowed to vote only on city issues and in city races, not items related to state and federal elections.

“For now, I am content with it being in local government,” Byron said.

Patricia Hart, of Takoma Park-based Fair Vote, says her organization supports the idea of teens making their voices heard in municipalities.

“16- and 17-year-olds have about the same political knowledge as a 21-year-old and nearly the same as an average adult,” she said.

Voters might notice a few other changes this year: Convicted felons on parole and probation will also be allowed to vote in local races.

“We didn’t see any reason exclude people who had served their time, regardless of what their crime was,” Grimes said.

The city is also requiring that apartment residencies allow door-to-door campaigners inside their buildings.

This isn’t the first dose of change for the city when it comes voting rules: More than 20 years ago, the city began allowing non U.S. citizens to vote in city elections.

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