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16-Year-Old Voters Make the Difference in Mayor's Election!

December 4, 2013  by  Flannary Collins
Category:  Elections Public Participation

You would not see this type of headline in Washington State, but in a small city in Maryland, it actually could happen. Takoma Park, MD, located just outside the other Washington, became the first city in the nation to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections. The city council’s aim was to boost voter turnout; the jury is still out on whether this will help, but – what an intriguing idea!

We cannot test this theory in Washington State, though, since it would be contrary to the constitution and general laws of the state (specifically, article 6, section 1 of the state constitution and Title 29A RCW, both of which require that a voter be 18 years old). Contrast this with Maryland’s state law, which specifically allows local governments to develop a “supplemental list” designating categories of individuals who can vote in their local election (even though they are not eligible to vote in state elections).

But – for those ambitious youth out there - don’t despair! There are still opportunities for direct youth involvement in local government. Some Washington cities have youth advisory members on their city council, parks boards, and other commissions.  Or, if that sounds too time-consuming, what about attending a city council meeting to see your elected officials in action? Or, maybe get a group of your friends together to participate in a city-sponsored volunteer event (like adopt-a-trail, or a park clean-up work party)? For more information and ideas, check out MRSC’s web page on Youth Participation in Local Government.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Flannary Collins

Flannary Collins is the Managing Attorney for MRSC. Flannary first joined MRSC as a legal consultant in August 2013 after serving as assistant city attorney for the city of Shoreline where she advised all city departments on a wide range of issues.

At MRSC, Flannary enjoys providing legal guidance to municipalities on all municipal issues, including the OPMA, PRA, and personnel. She also serves on the WSAMA Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Flannary Collins


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