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Hyattsville Lowers Voting Age to 16. Should College Park Do the Same?

Recently, Hyattsville voted to lower their voting age to 16, in order to “help young people develop habits of civic engagement that can last a lifetime”.

I recently received a request from one of my residents with a request to lower the voting age in College Park as well. Here are his talking points. Please elt em know what you think?

Teenagers are eager to participate in our society.
• 16-year-olds are more embedded in their communities than are most older voters (since teenagers are more likely to still be living in their home town), and when given the chance, they turn out to vote in larger numbers. In Takoma Park’s first election with a voting age of 16, voters younger than 18 enjoyed voter-turnout 4 times the size of voter turnout among those older than 18. (Source: http://www.governing.com/news/headlines/gov-maryland-city-sees-high-turnout-among-teens-after-election-reform.html )

Sixteen-year-olds are intelligent enough to meet America’s standards for voting.
• The 1965 Voting Rights Act replaced literacy tests throughout the United States with a presumption that an adult is sophisticated enough to cast a meaningful vote if he has passed 6th grade. (Source: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2034&context=dlj )
• If an adult who passed 6th grade has enough intelligence to vote, it stands to reason that a 16-year-old who has passed 10th grade does as well.

Contrary to the common fear that teenaged voters will just parrot their parents’ votes, research shows 16-year-old voters think carefully and make independent judgments.
• A recent study by Dr. Jan Eichhorn of 16- and 17-year-old Scottish voters showed that, on the vote to decide independence, only 56% of voters in this age-group voted the same way as their parents. Just like voters of all ages, 16- and 17-year-olds considered the views of their parents, of their friends, and of others they respected, and then reached their own decisions by Election Day. The conclusion of this study: “[Y]oung people are not simply following the views of mum or dad, and … there is no reason to believe that they are unable or unwilling to make up their own minds about which way to vote.” (Source: “Will 16 and 17 Year Olds Make A Difference In The Referendum?” http://www.scotcen.org.uk/media/205540/131129_will-16-and-17-years-olds-make-a-difference.pdf )
• A 2012 study of Austrian voters aged 16 and 17 found that “the quality of these citizens’ choices is similar to that of older voters, so they do cast votes in ways that enable their interests to be represented equally well. These results are encouraging for supporters of a lower voting age.” (Source: “Voting at 16: Turnout and the Quality Of Vote Choice” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379412000212 )
Young voters take civic responsibilities seriously.
• A study by Rutgers University found that, “Analyses of national survey data demonstrate that by 16 years of age … American adolescents manifest levels of development in each quality of citizenship that are approximately the same as those apparent in young American adults who are allowed to vote. The lack of relevant differences in capacities for citizenship between 16- and 17-year-olds and those legally enfranchised makes current laws arbitrary, denying those younger than age 18 the right to vote.” (Source: “American Sixteen- and Seventeen-Year-Olds Are Ready to Vote” http://ann.sagepub.com/content/633/1/201.abstract )
• In CA, exit polls showed it was voters aged 30-44 who elected movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor. Voters younger than 30 were the age-group most likely to vote instead for qualified, experienced civic leaders. (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/replacementballotexitpoll.html )

Adults warm quickly to the lower voting age.
• 72% of voters in Takoma Park now support their city’s voting age of 16. (Source: http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-survey-shows-support-for-takoma-park-voting-reforms/ )

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