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This Maryland Town Just Became The Next Battleground In Democrats’ Push To Let Minors Vote

Cheverly, Maryland, is considering whether to allow individuals as young as 16 to vote in local elections.

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CHEVERLY, Md. — In a small town less than 10 miles from Washington, D.C., dozens of residents in Cheverly, Maryland, braved the blistering cold and pouring rain to attend Wednesday’s town council meeting and provide testimony on whether the locality should allow individuals as young as 16 to vote in local elections.

“I haven’t heard a good reason for it. I can think of a number of reasons why not,” Fred Price Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and 50-year Cheverly resident, told The Federalist. “[But] I’d like it to go to a referendum, so I [can] have more time to think about it.”

Similar to other municipalities throughout the country, Cheverly’s minimum voting age is set at 18 years old, with Article V of the town’s charter furthermore requiring residents to have lived in Cheverly “at least thirty days prior to the day of any general or special election” in order to vote. Within the past few years, the town council adopted an amendment to Article V allowing non-U.S. citizens meeting such residency requirements to vote in local contests.

Like much of the country when it comes to election-related issues, attendees of Wednesday’s town hall appeared heavily divided on whether to open up the town’s electoral process to minors. Proponents of the initiative argued that lowering the voting age is logical because, as they opined, today’s teenagers are given more responsibilities than previous generations.

“I think teenagers today do bear a lot more responsibility, have a lot more knowledge, and are actually granted privileges that probably weren’t granted to younger people before,” Linda Cruz, who’s lived in Cheverly since 2001, told The Federalist. “I took my kids to get bank accounts and they’re [getting offered] a debit card at age 13. So, there’s a lot more rights and responsibilities happening [at] younger and younger [ages], so why not voting?”

Among those who testified in support of the proposition were minors, including 17-year-old co-founder of the Cheverly Youth Commission Zora Heneghan. During her remarks, Heneghan contended that teenage decision-making regarding issues of higher education and work serves as justification for why the council should approve the measure.

“We’re expected in a couple months to sign our name on a dotted line committing either ourselves or our family to up to $200,000 in [college student loan] debt. That’s a decision that we’re allowed to make when we’re 17,” Heneghan said. “We’re allowed to work. I mean half the people you see here today work for the Cheverly pool. … You have literally put the lives of your children in their hands.”

As described on the town’s website, the Cheverly Youth Commission is an organization “committed to promoting youth engagement” in the community that strives towards “making sure teenagers are informed about town politics, volunteer opportunities, and community gatherings in order to become better voters and more active members of the town.” The group proposed the “Vote16” measure.

But not everyone in Cheverly is completely sold on the idea of minors voting in town elections. During his testimony, Navy veteran Mike Klauser raised numerous points contesting the idea that individuals as young as 16 are equal to adults when it comes to “civic responsibility.”

We’ve “heard the proponents talk about responsibilities [such as] lifeguarding. I’m sure the lifeguard[s] here will recall having to get a youth work permit that required [their] parents to … sign off on,” he said. Proponents also “talked about indebting themselves for college. That would require a parental co-signature if you’re under 18.”

While speaking with The Federalist, resident Hugh Fike similarly expressed concerns about how “the mechanics” of such a policy would work and its potential consequences, especially as it relates to “legal rights” granted to individuals once they turn 18.

“We preclude purchasing of tobacco and alcohol in the county … [and] prevent people from going into contracts, signing leases, [and] doing other things at a certain age. So, there are some practical questions about whether or not this is a good idea,” Fike said. “We rightly recognize that 18 to 21 years old [is] sort of when full maturity happens, and we give them a certain number of legal rights and responsibilities. So, I’m primarily concerned that we’re going to be changing that … and we don’t really know the consequences.”

Nationwide Efforts to Lower the Voting Age

The effort to expand voting access to minors is hardly exclusive to Cheverly, however. In recent years, local governments in Democrat-majority areas have advanced measures granting individuals as young as 16 the ability to vote in municipal elections.

Late last year, for instance, the Boston City Council voted in favor (9-4) of permitting 16-year-olds to vote in local elections. If approved by Mayor Michelle Wu, “it will go to the state legislature for a vote,” according to Fox News. Additional localities that have passed similar legislation include Takoma Park and Greenbelt, Maryland, as well as Berkeley and Oakland, California, among several others.

At the national level, congressional Democrats have also attempted to pass legislation and constitutional changes that would lower the voting age for federal elections. Earlier this month, Democrat Rep. Grace Meng of New York proposed a constitutional amendment that seeks to repeal the 26th Amendment by lowering the voting age to 16. Amending the Constitution via Congress requires passage by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as three-fourths of the states.

“Our young people, including 16- and 17-year-olds, continue to fight and advocate for so many issues that they are passionate about from gun safety to the climate crisis,” Meng said during last year’s congressional session. “They have been tremendously engaged on policies affecting their lives and their futures.”

Meng’s resolution currently has 15 co-sponsors, including “Squad” members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley.

Additional legislative efforts to increase youth participation in federal elections include the “Youth Voting Rights Act,” which was introduced last year by Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren. As outlined in the bill, colleges and universities would be treated as “voter registration agencies” under the National Voter Registration Act and would be required to serve as polling places for federal elections. Furthermore, 16- and 17-year-olds would be allowed to pre-register to vote before turning 18.

It’s worth mentioning that during the 2022 midterms, younger voters overwhelmingly broke for Democrat candidates over Republican ones. According to a survey conducted by Edison Research, “63% of youth voted for a Democrat, and 35% voted for a Republican candidate to the U.S. House of Representatives.”

What’s Next for Cheverly?

While there’s currently no scheduled council vote or motion for a referendum, several of Cheverly’s town councilmembers indicated during Wednesday’s town hall their support for the proposition should it come up for a vote.

“[Teenagers] can vote. It’s not that bad,” said Councilwoman Marverly Nettles. “So, I hope that this council is able to move forward with Vote16.”

“Coming into this meeting, I was already in favor of supporting the, lowering the voting age. In light of what has been said tonight, I’m even more in favor of it than I was when I walked in that door this evening,” added Councilman Joseph Dalaker.

Mayor Kayce Munyeneh also expressed her support for lowering the town’s voting age, saying she was “very excited” when the measure was brought forward.


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