A committee on Thursday cleared a bill on a vote of 3-0 that will bring down the voting age of D.C. residents to 16 years from 18. Full D.C. Council will now decide on the bill in a final vote.
D.C. will be the first municipality in the U.S. that
will allow minors to vote in all elections, including having voting rights in presidential
elections if the bill is passed.
“Many 16-year-olds shoulder adult responsibilities
and burdens. They do have skin in the game in their communities. They pay
taxes, they have jobs and they drive on our city streets,” said
Council member Charles Allen. The
bill was introduced by Allen in April this year.
Takoma Park, Greenbelt and Hyattsville that come
under Maryland jurisdictions have earlier decreased the voting age to 16,
although only for local elections.
will enfranchise the District’s young people and bring their voices into the
political process,” added Allen.
However, the opponents of the bill say that young
people aren’t informed enough on issues and will just vote irrespective of how
their parents vote. “Those arguments have been completely eviscerated,” added Allen.
The bill was first introduced by Charles Allen in
2015. This year he again moved it after protests against gun violence by high
school students broke out following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High
School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14.
If the bill is passed by the full council and
becomes a law after getting signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, over 10,000 16-year-old and 17-year-old D.C. residents
will be added to the voting rolls.
The bill is expected to be taken up by the full
council at the end of this month.