Kensington Moves Forward With Proposal To Lower Voting Age
Teen wants to enable 16-year-olds to vote in town elections
The Kensington Town Council took a step toward lowering the voting age to 16 in town elections at its meeting Monday.
The council voted 3-1 to allow Miles Carr, a 16-year-old Junior at Walter Johnson High School, to petition town residents after he raised the idea of lowering the voting age.
Carr, who has been active in a number of high school civic organizations including the group MoCo Students for Change, believes granting voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds will “give a voice” to the concerns of students.
Carr, the son of Del. Al Carr, a Kensington Democrat, must get 300 signatures, about 20% of registered voters in the town.
“We’ll give him a list of registered voters, because that’s public information. We’ll give him copies of the petition. He hits the road and gets people to sign up,” said Mayor Tracey Furman following the meeting.
According to the town’s charter, requires signatures must be marked on an official petition form and their authenticity confirmed by town officials.
Furman said when Carr gets enough signatures, he can bring his proposal back to the council, which could either vote to amend the charter immediately, or put the issue before voters.
“We could hold a special election, or do it in June 2020 as a referendum,” Furman said.
The council overall has indicated that it support Carr’s idea, but the details have yet to be worked out.
Kensington holds town elections every year in June, with council members serving staggered two-year terms. Voters must currently be U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old and have lived in the town for at least 30 days. The mayor and council has the authority to collect taxes, set the town’s budget, facilitate development, resolve traffic issues and conduct elections among other issues.
Carr was not present at Monday’s meeting, which council member Duane Rollins said was the reason behind his opposition.
“I voted ‘no’ because I think it’s important for the individual who initiated this to show up. If it’s so important, I think the person should have shown up,” he said. “I might have asked a few more questions.”
Rollins said he feels uneasy about lowering the voting age, but is willing to consider the idea.
“I don’t know that it’s such a good idea. I’m not horrifically opposed to it, but I do have reservations about it. I was a 16-year-old kid once. There may be, but I just don’t if there’s enough maturity to really vote,” he said.
If Carr’s petition is ultimately approved, Kensington would become the fifth jurisdiction in Maryland to lower the voting age to 16, joining Takoma Park, Greenbelt, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org