How Route 1’s Voting Age Is Ahead of the Curve

A growing number of municipalities are debating allowing 16-year-olds to vote, but along the Route 1 corridor the issue is already settled.

Of the four jurisdictions in the state of Maryland that allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections, three are on the Route 1 corridor: Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and Greenbelt.

(The other is nearby Takoma Park, while a little farther out, Kensington is debating it.)

Just as the Vietnam War helped spur a movement to allow 18-year-olds to vote in national elections, the debate over climate change seems to be playing a role in the current discussion, especially since so many well-known activists on the issue are young people.

It’s also an issue of fairness for many advocates. Sixteen-year-olds can drive, be tried as adults if they commit a crime and pay taxes.

The change appears to help spur civic engagement among a group that often has low turnout in local elections — a problem exacerbated by the fact that those 18-year-olds who can vote are often headed to college in another city.

Data from the first two local elections in Takoma Park after it lowered its voting age to 16 in 2013 showed that turnout was quadruple the average among all voters.

Berkeley, Calif., allows 16-year-olds to vote in local school elections, although an effort to allow them to vote in all elections failed in San Francisco. In 2018, Washington, D.C., considered allowing 16-year-olds to vote for president as well, but the effort failed.

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