The Greenbelt, MD City Council unanimously voted to approve a charter amendment to officially allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections January 8, 2018. This comes after an advisory referendum question on the ballot at the city’s November 2016 election resulted in 53 percent of voters supporting the change. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds will vote in the city’s next municipal election in 2019.
Young people on the Greenbelt Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) have been advocating for this change since 2015, and took their message directly to voters before the referendum by knocking on doors, distributing flyers, attending community forums, and making phone calls. Greenbelt’s Advisory Committee on Education and the city’s Community Relations Advisory Board have both expressed support for a lower local voting age. In 2015, a community questionnaire asked residents about their views on potentially lowering the voting age to 16, and more than 70 percent were opposed. Between then and the November 2017 referendum, youth worked tirelessly to educate key decision makers and the general public about the issue, changing minds one at a time.
Greenbelt now becomes the third Maryland city with a voting age of 16. Takoma Park and Hyattsville lowered their local voting ages in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and have seen positive results. In each city, 16- and 17-year-olds have turned out at higher rates than the overall electorate.
Sixteen- and 17-year-olds in Berkeley, CA will also be allowed to vote in school board elections later this year. Voters approved a ballot measure to lower the voting age for school board elections in 2016, and the school district is now working to implement that change.