Lower the Voting Age for Local Elections

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FairVote supports cities lowering the voting age to 16 in their local elections. Empirical evidence suggests that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit. While one’s first reaction might be to question the ability of young voters to cast a meaningful vote, research shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters. It is time that they are empowered to put that knowledge to good use at the polls, and make voting a habit in their formative years. These young citizens are old enough to drive, work without restrictions on their hours, and pay taxes--they should also have a voice in their local government.

FairVote has served as a thought leader and catalyst for lowering the voting age to 16 in cities, playing a critical role at the local level in Takoma Park ( MD), which became the first U.S. city to lower the voting age in 2013, and later Hyattsville (MD), which followed in 2015. We provide resources and advice to local reformers through resources here and at our Promote Our Vote project. Advocacy leaders as of early 2018 include Generation Citizen and the National Youth Rights Association.

 

Why should we lower the voting age to 16?

At first glance, many assume that 16-year-olds are unable to make mature and informed decisions about voting, that they will not turn out to vote, or that they will just vote the way their parents tell them to. However, research indicates that all three of those assumptions are untrue and are not a reason to keep local governments from extending voting rights to 16-year-olds.

Reasons to lower the voting age include the following:

 

In Practice in the U.S.

FairVote played a vital role in Takoma Park, MD's extending municipal voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in 2013. The results in Takoma Park have been incredibly positive, affirming the growing body of research indicating several benefits of lowering the voting age. In 2013, Takoma Park 16- and 17-year-olds voted at twice the rate of voters 18 and older. Residents also support the measure: In an exit poll of an April 2014 Takoma Park special election, 72% of participants supported keeping voting rights for 16- and 17-year-olds in city elections.

Hyattsville, MD, with FairVote’s support, followed Takoma Park’s lead and adopted 16- and 17-year-old voting in January of 2015. 

Research and Resources

 

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