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D.C. Considers Lowering Its Voting Age to 16

If you’re like me and were too young to vote in the 2016 election (and are still high-key bitter about it), there’s a possibility that the next crop of teenagers won’t have to share the same fate: WWL-TV reported that D.C. City Council is deliberating lowering the voting age in D.C. to 16 years old.

In case you need to brush up on your political knowledge, the voting age hasn’t changed nationally since the 26th Amendment in 1971. That’s only for federal elections, though, since we can’t give Congress too much power – cities and states still have the right to lower voting ages for other elections on their own, and a small number of cities have, Takoma Park in Maryland being the first.

But D.C. is different. It is kind of a city, but it also functions essentially like a state, even though D.C. doesn’t get a vote in Congress. So what does that mean? 16- and 17-year-olds living in Washington, D.C. would be the youngest people ever to vote for the President of the United States in 2020.

The question of whether a lower voting age is better has been around for a while. Some European countries have already lowered it nationwide, like Austria and Scotland. Even in America, there have been articles pushing for and against a lower voting age. More recently, many of the supporters for a lower voting age point to the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida as a sign that teenagers are passionate and knowledgeable about politics (sometimes even more than adults), and should, therefore, be allowed to vote earlier in life.

Image Credit: The Onion

As college students, our memories of being 16 and 17 are still fresh. In fact, we probably know a lot of people who still are 16 and 17 today, so we know firsthand that teenagers aren’t as ignorant or indifferent to politics and the state of their futures as adults may think (or most of them aren’t, anyway). Especially for first-years at Barnard and Columbia, many of us marched in the first Women’s March, watched the Clinton-Trump presidential debate on TV, or posted long Facebook rants about the daily atrocities and obscenities surrounding the 2016 campaign trail, all before we turned 18.

Lowering the voting age is smart: the young people are the ones who will have to reckon the most and the longest with the effects of whatever administration is in office, so they should be able to play a part in deciding who calls the shots.

Legislation for the lowered voting age was introduced to D.C. City Council on April 10. Now, according to WWL-TV, “Supporters of the legislation are hoping to have a public hearing set up in June and then a vote on the measure before the end of the year.” Supporters claim they have a seven-out-of-13 majority, and they seem pretty confident that the legislation will pass. If it does, other states will hopefully follow suit.

Erica Kam

Columbia Barnard '21

Erica is an Associate Editor at Her Campus. She was formerly the Contributing Editor (2020-21), Wellness Editor (2019-20), High School Editor (2018-19), and an Editorial Intern (2018). She graduated from Barnard College in 2021 with a degree in English and creative writing, and was the Senior Editor of Her Campus Columbia Barnard (2018-20). When she's not writing or editing (which is rare), she's probably looking at food pictures on Instagram.
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