The City Council of Greenbelt, Maryland listened and acted on its Youth Advisory Committee’s recommendation to extend voting rights to those 16 and older.
January 8, 2018 was an icy night in this city of 24,000 located about 12 miles from Washington, DC. Three councilmembers were not present. Would the vote be delayed? Ema and Julia, joined by other Eleanor Roosevelt High School students, who initiated this campaign in 2015, fixed their eyes on the Mayor and the three other lawmakers.
I was anxious even though Bill Bystricky with Growing Democracy and Alex Koroknay-Palicz with National Youth Rights Association seemed confident. Unlike Takoma Park and Hyattsville–the only two cities in the US to lower the voting age from 18–the Greenbelt City Council decided to put the proposal to the voters. The non-binding referendum passed by a narrow margin three months earlier. Councilmember Leta Mach seemed determined that the lawmakers in attendance vote. Councilmember Rodney Roberts, whose support was uncertain, said “majority rules” (referring to the referendum) and at about 8:45pm, he joined the other councilmembers and the charter amendment passed.
I’ve been waiting for this decisive action before sharing my TEDxYouth@Columbia where I argue for Youth Voice AND Youth Vote. My hope is more students will organize campaigns for youth suffrage for city councils as well as school boards and more adults will join their efforts.
Read/watch compelling arguments by students who testified before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although this ballot measure lost (by only about 14,000 votes), young activists plan to try again in 2020.
Here are a few links for more information.
Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
Generation Citizen – Vote16USA
National Youth Rights Association – Voting Age
Teenage Brain & Voting – Let Science Decide
Credit: 16 Ready to Vote button by National Youth Rights Association