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.
“This bill 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.