Some Maryland Communities Lowering Voting Age to 16
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Today is National Voter Registration Day and in addition to urging you to check your registration advocates are making the case for lowering the voting age.
While typically less attention is paid to voting in off-year elections, there are still ballots in many localities, and in some of those Marylanders as young as 16 can vote.
Five cities in Maryland allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections. In November, voters in Rockville can participate in a nonbinding referendum on lowering the voting age to 16.
Alyssa Canty, director of youth programs for Common Cause, said young people are often beginning to see the effects of civic policy.
"When they're 16- or 17-year-olds, they are starting their first part-time jobs," Canty pointed out. "So they now have income, so they're purchasing things, so they are paying sales tax, but they have no say in what happens to those tax dollars."
At the state level, any Marylander can register at age 16 but cannot vote in state or federal elections until they reach 18.
Maryland state law permits city councils to lower the voting age at the local level, and so far Takoma Park, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and Mount Rainier have done so. In Somerset, 16-year-olds will be able to vote in local elections beginning next May.
Canty sees late high school as a good time to engage young people.
"Usually around 16, 17 years old, that junior, senior year of high school, that's also when you take your really in-depth civics class, and you learn about how the government works," Canty explained. "It's almost like experimental learning where you get to actually go and cast a ballot."
Canty noted as campaigns have spread across the country, they often see young people taking the lead on the issue.
"We have seen where young people are energized by this issue," Canty pointed out. "In many places, they're the ones that are on the forefront leading this work because they see themselves as being really impacted by local elections, by their school boards, by their city councils."
For more information on the effort, visit Vote16USA.org.
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