Teens talk about lower voting age proposal

At left, Tsion Daugne, 17, at right, Betel dejene, 16

BY MORGAN FECTO

“I don’t think people my age are really aware enough or mature enough to vote,” said 16-year-old Takoma Park resident Isabelle Brown of the city council’s proposal to lower the voting age to 16.

“I don’t think the voting age should be lowered,” said Brown.

The city council is currently considering a proposed new policy, which will be discussed at a public meeting April 8.

While the council was provisionally in favor of proposed voting law changes, including lowering the voting age, during a March 4 meeting, local 16 and 17-year-olds are divided when it comes to their votes.

“It gives teens a chance to voice their opinions,” said Betel Dejene, 16. “There are a lot of issues out there and there’s not a lot of, like, young voters, right now.”

Dejene said that she would vote in Takoma Park elections since, as a teenage daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, issues that touch on immigration and college affect her.

“A lot of issues involve our age group,” said Dejene.

Leo Murray, 17.

Leo Murray, 17.

“We want to be able to make a change when we’re young,” said Leo Murray, 17. “To be able to have a voice in politics is pretty good and interesting to me.”

While some teens are excited at the idea of impacting their local government, others are unsure that they can make intelligent choices.

“16 and 17 year olds are not politically informed enough to make such decisions,” said Arun Ramamurthy, 16. “They don’t really know enough about the far-reaching outcomes of certain decisions to actually vote.”

Arun Ramamurthy, 16.

Arun Ramamurthy, 16.

“Me and my friends don’t pay as much attention to local politics,” said Brown. “I don’t really read the paper, so I’d have to hunt down information.”

The council believes that lowering the voting age, along with same day voter registration, may be a way to boost voter turnout for city elections, particularly among the city’s renters.

“The voter turnout would go up if, like, 16 and 17 year olds were included, and our voices would be heard,” said Dejene.

Despite differing opinions on the effects of their votes, the teens were at least in agreement about one thing: if they get the right to vote they will strive to exercise it.

At left, Tsion Daugne, 17, at right, Betel dejene, 16

At left, Tsion Daugne, 17, at right, Betel dejene, 16.

“I would try to,” said Brown. “I’m just not sure I would stay interested after the first time.”

“I would vote,” said Ramamurthy. “But probably based on how my parents vote.”

“I would definitely vote,” said Dejene.

“17, to be able to vote, I could do that,” said Murray.

Thomas Berhe, 17.

Thomas Berhe, 17.

“I would try to vote,” said Thomas Berhe, 17. “It would give us a say on what we want.”

“If they change the law, then giving my opinion would only help,” said Tsion Daugne, 17. “It wouldn’t hurt.

The council will hold two votes, April 15 and April 22, to decide if they will make the change. If the amendment is passed, it will go into effect by the middle of June.

 

About the Author

Morgan Fecto
Morgan Fecto is a graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at UMD. She currently manages the "We Are Takoma" event series with the City of Takoma Park. Follow her on Twitter @MorganFecto.

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