Dems in several states push measures to lower voting age to 16

The change would only apply to local races, not statewide or national

Democrats in several U.S. jurisdictions are looking to lower their local voting age to 16, as data shows younger voters are more likely to support their party.

According to the Washington Examiner, lawmakers in Boston, Mass. and Culver City, Calif. are supporting measures to let younger residents vote in local elections, at the same time that a Virginia delegate is pushing for the same across the entire state. An amendment to the state constitution would let 16-year-olds throughout the state vote in local contests.

"Notwithstanding the requirement that a voter shall be eighteen years of age, any person who is sixteen years of age or older and is otherwise qualified to vote shall be permitted to register to vote and to vote in local elections," the Virginia amendment would say, according to House Joint Resolution 459. The resolution was introduced by Democrat Del. Sam Rasoul in November to be considered during next year’s legislative session.

Last week, the Boston City Council voted 9-4 to allow 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections. If Mayor Michelle Wu signs off on it, it will go to the state legislature for a vote. 

'Vote Here' sign is seen at a Michigan voting precinct the day before Michigan Democrats and Republicans choose their nominees to contest November's congressional elections, which will determine which party controls U.S. House of Representatives for next two years, in Birmingham, Michigan, U.S. August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

'Vote Here' sign is seen at a Michigan voting precinct the day before Michigan Democrats and Republicans choose their nominees to contest November's congressional elections, which will determine which party controls U.S. House of Representatives for next two years, in Birmingham, Michigan, U.S. August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin (REUTERS/Emily Elconin)

The measure calls for a separate voter registration form and a separate list for those under 18.

"While there is often the narrative that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, young people play an equally important role in our democracy today and deserve a vote that reflects their contributions to our City," the petition says, adding that there are young people who can pay taxes but have no say in how the money is spent, and can be tried as adults but are otherwise considered minors.

In Culver City, Measure VY called for residents aged 16 and 17 to be able to vote in city and school board elections. The measure was on the ballot in November’s election, and as of Tuesday, it appeared to have failed by just 16 votes, according to the Los Angeles County election website.

Elsewhere in California, 16-year-olds had already secured the right to vote locally but were disenfranchised in November’s election. According to the Washington Post, a supermajority of voters in Oakland approved the change in 2020, only for officials in Alameda County not to implement it or a similar measure that passed in Berkeley in 2016. 

In Oakland, 67% of voters supported the change, as did 70% in Berkeley. Nevertheless, the county failed to take the necessary actions to allow the younger residents to vote. Deputy Registrar Cynthia Cornejo told online publication EdSource that it was a time issue.

"In a perfect world, this would be easy to implement. But we want to make sure we do it right," Cornejo said. "I completely understand how frustrated people are. We all hoped this would be done sooner."

Some Democrats in Congress have supported the idea of lowering the voting age nationwide. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., proposed legislation in 2021 to lower the age to 16, but it was unsuccessful.

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"A sixteen-year-old in 2021 possesses a wisdom and a maturity that comes from 2021 challenges, 2021 hardships, and 2021 threats," Pressley said in a statement at the time. "Now is the time for us to demonstrate the courage that matches the challenges of the modern-day sixteen and seventeen-year-old."