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Washington, D.C., council eyes lowering voting age to 16

By Susan McFarland
Washington, D.C., council eyes lowering voting age to 16
Participants of the March for Our Lives rally walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on March 24. The district is considering a proposal to lower the voting age to 16. Photo by Mark Wallheiser /UPI | License Photo

April 17 (UPI) -- Washington, D.C., councilors are considering lowering the federal voting age to 16 -- a proposal they say has a majority of support.

The legislation, introduced last week by council member Charles Allen, was inspired by high school activists who gathered by the thousands last month during March for Our Lives rallies to protest school gun violence.

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"At the age of 16, our society already gives young people greater legal responsibility. They can drive a car. They can work. Some are raising a family or helping their family make ends meet. They pay taxes," Allen said. "And yet, they can't exercise their voice where it matters most -- at the ballot box."

The last time the federal voting age was changed in the United States was four decades during the Vietnam War, as students said it was unfair an 18-year-old could fight in the war but not vote. The 1971 amendment does not prevent states from setting a lower age.

RELATED After Parkland: A timeline of gun-control activism, legislation

Takoma Park, Md., was the first city in the United States to pass the measure, followed by Greenbelt and Hyattsville, Md., and Berkeley, Calif. -- but cities can only extend voting rights for local elections.

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Two countries have the voting age set at 16 -- Austria and Scotland.

Supporters hope to have a public hearing in June and a vote before the end of the year, which could allow teens to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

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Since the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that inspired the rallies, two other states -- Minnesota and Georgia -- considered bills to lower the voting age. During the past year, six other states have introduced similar legislation.

"America's children took to the streets and led marches with a unified message that rang out across the country: We need a Congress that will protect us," said former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. "We are making sure that they have the opportunity to cast their ballots for the first time and truly make a difference."

RELATED March for Our Lives: Students around the country rally against gun violence

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