Takoma Park to Allow Teen Voters (Video)
The Takoma Park City Council passed a legislation Monday reducing the voting age to 16. The measure passed 6 to 1. Councilmember Fred Schultz (Ward-6) was the opposing vote.
This amendment to Takoma Park Charter (Voting and Elections) also included passing same day voter registration, reinstating the right to vote to convicted felons once they are out of prison, establishing early voting, and reducing the residency requirement to vote from 30 days to 21 days.
This isn’t the first time Takoma Park has made history with voter participation. In November of 1992, the city council, at the time, voted to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.
“People should be able to vote, period,” Councilmember Jarrett Smith (Ward-5 ) said. “In a lot of elections, a lot of young people want to volunteer but, they can’t vote and so this was one proposal of how to get more residents in Takoma Park involved in the process,” Smith added.
Smith’s views were echoed by Takoma Park resident Kate Stewart. Stewart wrote in her support of allowing teens a vote, but was critical of how the process would be carried out.
“I applaud the Council’s efforts to extend access to voting to those on parole and young people in Takoma Park,” she said. However, “voting rights should not be determined by a referendum. We have a long and unfortunate history in this country of putting to referendum very important rights and too often the majority of voices restrict the rights of others.”
Councilmember Fred Schultz isn’t moved by this rationale. As a father who raised six kids, he said teens can be engaged in politics, but they are mostly interested in school, dating, and learning how to make friends.
“They’re not ready to vote because they’re not paying attention to what’s going on,” Schultz said. “There’s always going to be exceptions to that rule. I’m sure there are plenty of kids who are exceptional. My concern is that we can’t choose who gets to vote.”
Although the measure has passed, it can still be challenged by residents who want to petition for a referendum to be placed on the ballot and voted on during November elections.
Takoma Park City TV reporter Regina Reese reports on the measure that passed in the city lowering the voting age to 16.