Same D.C. City Council Members Who Want to Lower the Voting Age to 16 Also Voted to Raise City's Smoking Age to 21

We'll trust teenagers with decisions about how to run the country, but not how to run their own lives.


Joe Sohm/

The Washington, D.C., City Council is rapidly advancing a measure that would lower the voting age to 16. On Thursday, the council's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee unanimously passed the Youth Vote Amendment Act, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in all elections, from local races to the presidency.

This would be a national first. A number of D.C. suburbs in Maryland let 16- and 17-year-olds vote, but ony in local races. In Berkeley, California, this same age bracket is allowed to vote in school board elections.

The sponsor of the measure, Councilmember Charles Allen, praised Thursday's outcome, arguing that 16-year-olds are already making weighty decisions and thus can be trusted with participating in elections.

"They're caretakers of parents or siblings. They're helping their family by working a job (or two). Some may be parents themselves. And they're engaged in the issues of our city just like everyone else," he says on Twitter. "They deserve to have their voice heard."

Allen's not wrong that 16- and 17-year-olds are trusted with a number of decisions associated with adulthood, from holding down a job to getting a driver's license to—in D.C., though not in every state—sexual consent. It's odd, therefore, that we restrict their right to vote.

It's also odd that Allen would be the one making this argument, given his past support for other laws that restrict these same young people from making decisions about their own lives.

Back in 2016, when a proposal was floated to increase D.C.'s smoking age to 21, Allen voted in favor of taking this choice away from young people. He was joined by Councilmembers Elissa Silverman and Mary Cheh, both of whom support his measure to lower the voting age.

It's remarkably inconsistent to advocate that 16-year-olds are responsible enough to do things like raise a child and participate in the democratic process, yet too irresponsible to decide whether they want to smoke a cigarette.

Yet this increasingly is our lot. Our marginal impact on choosing the leaders and laws that govern us is treated as sacrosanct, while the decisions we might make about our lives, and only our lives, are subject to an endless degree of regulations, restrictions, or prohibitions.

By all means, we should let 16-year-olds vote. We should let them do a lot of other things, too.

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  2. Same D.C. City Council Members Who Want to Lower the Voting Age to 16 Also Voted to Raise City’s Smoking Age to 21

    Both actions get more Lefty votes?

    1. Why else would they bother?

  3. They haven’t thought this through have they? If they lower the voting age, there will be more young voter and that will increase political pressure to lower the drinking age, smoking age, etc… Maybe not enough increased political pressure to matter in the end, but still.

    1. Doubtful. That pressure meds to be organized and it’s hard to imagine youts organizing much beyond a flash mob or Twitter hashtag
      Political pressure comes from $$$.

      1. The youths don’t need to organize. All it would take to create some enterprising candidate going after the youth vote by promising fewer restrictions on 16 year olds (lower drinking, smoking, etc ages).

    2. If young people looked ahead they could really vote to end mandatory participation in SS and Medicare. Both are absolutely screwing over young people.

    3. Almost certainly not enough to matter. First, how many 16/17yo potential voters are there? Second, how many of them are likely to actually vote? Probably not many, judging by the participation rates of 18-21yo’s. Third, I have a sneaking suspicion that among the few in this bracket that are politically engaged, most will probably vote for more nannying, not less.

  4. It’s okay as long as they vote the right way.

  5. This makes even less sense when you consider that the reason for raising the smoking age to 21 was that 18 year old brains are not developed enough to make a rational decision on something that could badly affect their health. I guess 16 and 17 year old brains are developed enough to vote – for Democrats.

    1. It’s kind of a tacit admission that leftists have the world view of petulant children.

      1. It’s muscle memory. Get them started voting D when they’re still in the grasp of the biased educational system, they’ll keep it up for longer.

  6. I can see lots of room here for teachers’ unions to bribe kids-“if you want your diploma, you have to bring me your voting record”

    1. Thus, the voting selfie.

  7. “In Berkeley, California, this same age bracket is allowed to vote in school board elections.”

    That’s all you need to know regarding Berkeley’s gov’t schools.

    1. Yes, like children voting for their parents. The ones that say yes to all the toys and candy win.

  8. This makes perfect sense. Who you vote for is trivial. Deciding to become a nicotine addict is an important decision.

    1. Something tells me if there was a surge of support among teens for republicans or a third party, progs would be screaming that we must raise the voting age back to 21 ASAP

    2. Who you vote for is trivial

      In DC, it most certainly is. Don’t think there has been a non-D elected to anything in 25 years.

      1. Carol Schwartz was re-elected to the DC Council as a Republican in 2004.

  9. so what maybe *forty more* people will vote now in DC?

  10. Yes, the majority of DC residents are Dems, hence, those 16 year-olds, [t]hey’re caretakers of parents or siblings. They’re helping their family by working a job (or two). Some may be parents themselves.

    Hey, isn’t there a Libertarian presidential hopeful living in the suburbs of DC? We might get our first 3 Electorial College votes. 😀

  11. …16-year-olds are already making weighty decisions and thus can be trusted with participating in elections.

    Nope. But likely a reliable D vote, unless they decide to rebel against public school doctrine.

  12. By all means, we should let 16-year-olds vote. We should let them do a lot of other things, too.

    You know, it’s gotten so hard to tell if this is just Reason’s anarchist quackery letting its slip show, or just garden variety stupidity at work. But I might be repeating myself.

    Let 8-year-olds vote. Why not? If they can fuck, they can vote. If they can drink, or own nukes, they can vote.

    Oh, what a wonderful libertarian future we will have when newly-elected president, 18-year-old Buffy Dumbfuckinberg, rewards her pre-teen electorate with fully-subsidized, all-day marijuana suckers.

    1. Hmmm. Go on.

      1. Hey, little girl, I’m an anarchist. Do you consent to having this big sticky thing in your mouth? You do? That’s all I needed to hear.

    2. I think you’re confused about the anarchist position on voting.

      1. Oh, how so?

        1. As an anarchist, I don’t care who votes. Just remember that I don’t consider your vote as morally binding on me, just because you can get 51 out of 1oo people to agree with you.

          1. I doubt any libertarian-leaning person does consider democracy to be a force for moral suasion. You’re saying nothing new.

            KMW’s disingenuity (and her dishonesty) in this article is that she’s a card-carrying anarchist and ch0oses not to disclose that despite it being germane. So instead of advancing a serious argument based in her own philosophy, she advances sophomoric, somewhat petulant reasons.

            She should just come out and say voting has no legitimacy because the state has no legitimacy.

  13. Federalism, what a concept. No matter how much the District screws up their elections, they can only effect their 3 electoral votes.

  14. “they’re engaged in the issues of our city just like everyone else,” he says on Twitter. “They deserve to have their voice heard.”

    “Fuck, let *everyone* vote!”

  15. While they are at it, they should also lower the age to buy a rifle in DC. If I am not mistaken a person must be at least 18 years old to buy a rifle there.

    If they can vote at 16, they should be able to smoke, own a rifle and buy alcohol.

    1. 18 to buy a rifle, 21 to have a beer, maybe they will vote to lower the age for both to 16

  16. By all means, we should let 16-year-olds vote.

    What an incredibly stupid thing to write.

  17. The qualifications for voter registration and a carry permit should be the same.

    I am agnostic as to what those should be.

    1. The qualifications for voter registration should be being 18, just like responsibility for every other adult decision, and a citizen and resident, etc.

      The qualifications for a carry permit should be being 0, because by the 2A + 14A there should be no such thing.

      1. I’m ok with being old enough to make your X on the spot.

      2. Except for drinking and smoking tobacco, but I guess smoking pot is okay.

  18. First of all, this business about allowing children to vote is fucking insanity, as are the inane reasons being offered for it. Second of all, DC itself is nowhere close to electing a single Republican to any office anywhere in its limits, but this is just the beginning. 16 year olds voting for president will make the news; it will break a taboo of common sense and will spread to every blue state in a decade at most. It will tip every race in the state, including Congressional districts, toward the Ds by a few points, enhancing their domination. This is exactly what the SNP did in Scotland to goose first the indyref and then their own margins.

    It has not been a partisan issue until recently that children should not vote. Few politicians have been interested, because voters of both parties think it’s insane and beyond party-politics maneuvering. But now we see the real purpose of the apparently pointless and impotent endless prog propagandizing about Trump’s unprecedented ruthlessness and authoritarianism, Republicans’ historically unprecedented dirty tricks and dirty politics and partisanship, voter suppression, etc. It is to prime their own voters that the Republicans have taken the gloves off and covered their wraps in resin and broken glass, so only fools would hold back from the most shameless measures. And all the available shamelessnesses out there will help the Democrats; there is nothing for the Republicans to counter.

    1. I agree, but you must realise the suggestion of children voting is based in the anarchist moronry that infects Reason writers.

      If kids can fuck, be sold alcohol, be sold drugs, and consensually do all those other things, as if they were adults, how can they be denied the vote? Anarchists are OBLIGATED to hold this position lest they be drummed out of the Society of Fabo Freethinkers.

      …it will break a taboo of common sense …


      Also, that Democrats will benefit most from a lower voting age, is not a secret. Not even to Reason writers. That should be instructive.

      1. +1 Lolita

  19. lower the voting age to 16.

    It should be raised to 26.

    1. And also only to net taxpayers.

      1. Once upon a time the franchise was only extended to property owners.

        I suggest a modified regime. You get a number of votes equal to the amount you paid in tax the previous year minus the amount your received in state benefits.

        1. We don’t need to give multiple votes – just, if you paid taxes and your net income is earned, not entitlements, then you get to vote. In fact, the best argument for this is: if you don’t pay taxes, but live off of entitlements, you have a conflict of interest in voting (just as a politician or judge will recuse themselves from voting on issues where they have a financial interest in a party involved).

          1. I was only semi-serious.

            There are problems with property qualifications. How can you deny someone the vote when non-money issues such as the application of the Bill of Rights and other such have no dependencies on income or any other property qualification.

            1. Precisely because they’re “non-money issues”. Respecting your rights doesn’t cost me anything. Government spending does.

  20. Keep stories like this in mind when you hear about how direct popular vote for President is the way to go.

    States will be able to inflate their voter numbers by enfranchising 16 year olds, incarcerated felons, etc.

    1. How dare you upstage me by being succinct!

      1. +1 electoral vote, or more.

  21. 16 years old. Voting. Sigh. Leftists, why don’t you just make it a law that your votes count twice and be transparent about your goals? Cant be trusted with a lighter, but the city council? Why not. Jezzus.

  22. It could be lowered to 16, but potential voters would have to pass Prof. Somin’s political literacy test to vote.

    Political Ignorance

  23. So in DC the view is a 16-20 yr old is mature enough to vote, but not mature enough to decide whether or not to smoke? Only in progressive la-la land is this reality. Lets be honest., they want 16 yr olds to vote because they know they are gullible enough to be easily manipulated and therefore ensure Democrats always win with promises of free stuff or rants about “fairness”.

  24. Did he really just argue that the fact that some 16 year olds are irresponsible enough to have children is evidence that they are responsible enough to vote?

  25. Are sixteen year olds old enough to legally hold full time jobs in DC?

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