In the three years that I taught Intro to Journalism at the City College of New York, we’d have the most fun during our “Op-Ed” lesson, where students would have an in-class debate. Whenever we argued the question, “Should the drinking age be lowered to 18?” the pro side would inevitably argue that if kids can die in a war and vote, they should be able to get a drink.
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Well, younger teens in Washington, D.C., may soon very well be able to vote at least five years before they can legally consume a frosty Hennessy Colada at their favorite chain restaurant.
According to Vice News, the nation’s capital now has a bill before its City Council that would allow kids as young as 16 to vote in federal elections, including for president, if passed. The 26th Amendment of the Constitution does not stop states from lowering the voting age below 18, but says that the voting age cannot be over 18.
On Tuesday, Council Member Charles Allen introduced the bill, saying that teens are unfairly taxed without representation, since so many work and have taxes taken from their paychecks. He also thinks that the new law will encourage young adults to be more engaged in civics.
“By enfranchising 16- and 17-year-olds, we can bring our young people directly into the political process, lift their voices and, hopefully, create engaged, lifelong voters,” said Allen.
Vice reports that Allen introduced similar legislation in 2015, but it never made it to a hearing. Perhaps in light of the teen activism that has blossomed after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., some council members seem to have been swayed.
Allen reportedly has the support of six other council members already, and only seven votes are needed to pass the bill and put it on the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has already voiced her support.
Like many other things that pertain to D.C., however, Congress has the right to review and block any legislation passed by the City Council via the District of Columbia Home Rule Act.
However, the ranking Democrat on the oversight committee has already voiced his support. “The proper voting age is a state issue,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland in a statement. “If the District of Columbia City Council passes and the mayor signs a bill on this issue, I will support D.C.’s right to home rule.”
With three electoral votes in the U.S. presidential elections, D.C. votes overwhelmingly Democratic, and lowering the voting age is unlikely to change that. The district is represented by one nonvoting member of Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has been in office since 1991.
We’ll be following this one closely.