DC teens fight to lower voting age to 16

In 2015, Washington D.C. Councilman Charles Allen introduced “The Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018,” which would lower the voting age in local and federal elections from 18 to 16. After failing to move  through the D.C. Council, Allen reintroduced the bill at a hearing in June following the momentum from March for Our Lives.

Student reporters from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs produced a story on Vote16USA, a youth vote movement led by a coalition of high school students across the country. Several teens from the organizations local chapter, Vote16DC, testified at a public hearing for the bill on June 27.

The bill moved out of the Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on November 1. At a full council meeting on November 13, the bill was tabled in a 7-6 vote, without clear indication if the bill would be re-considered at a later time.

Had the bill been passed, D.C. would have been the first voting district in the country to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in both local and federal elections.

Xavier Dominguez, a junior at Las Cruces High School in New Mexico, who traveled to D.C. to work with SRL, reflected on the piece he produced with other student reporters on the heels of a potentially historic vote. 

Xavier Dominguez – Reporter’s Notebook

I didn’t have a lot of interest in political issues or politics in general when my group was first assigned to cover Vote16DC – a national campaign aimed to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year-olds in local elections. However, getting the opportunity to look more in depth into how people my age were wanting to make a difference, made me think twice about how politics could affect my future. While reporting on this story, I gained a better understanding of how much power people my age can have. It does not require an adult to make change but anyone can, no matter what circumstances.

When I interviewed Tiffany Missembe, a student advocate for Vote16DC, she said, “I believe that youth are heavily affected by policies implemented in our community”. It made me think twice about my own community and the ways in which people my age are affected by decisions made by local representatives. Seeing how Vote16DC put their ideas into action, such as getting involved with a city council member, going to a city council hearing and reaching out to different stakeholders, taught me how important it was for teens all over the world to have their voices heard.

Story produced by Xavier Dominguez of Las Cruces High School in New Mexico, Savannah Burrows of West Ranch High School in California, Elijah Magana of Etiwanda High School in California, and Linda Olvera-Jones of Dalton Middle School in Georgia. Mentoring provided by Kristy Choi from PBS NewsHour and Lisa Wilk from WHYY.