Surprising Voter Participation by HS Students

The D.C. suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland is the only municipality in the country that recently lowered the voting age.  Even in the off-year election, a stunning 44 percent of 16 and 17-year-old registered voters cast their ballots. Overall turnout was a meager 11 percent which is the norm with only one write-in challenger for mayor and uncontested elections for six city council seats.

One of these new voters was Camille Kirsch who spoke at hearings last April. She testified that 16- and 17-year-olds should be able to vote “because people who care about this community should have a voice.”

Councilmember Tim Male, sponsor of the legislation, cites research by professors in Austria and Norway about the political maturity and participation of younger voters.

Extending suffrage is no guarantee for strong turnout in the future but what is certain is there are plenty of folks who want to drown out the voices of young people, not only at the polls. This pathetic, racist comment in response to a Governing magazine article about the November 5, 2013 election in Takoma Park captures this mindset: “So our future will be decided by illiterate, illegal immigrant children who have never been anywhere or done anything or learned any “life lessons,” probably never had a job or paid taxes, and basically don’t know jack.”

What arguments can you offer to those who are outraged at the thought of letting high school students vote?