While nearby College Park considers opening up its city elections to noncitizens, the town of Greenbelt, Maryland, could let juniors in high school vote in municipal elections.
The Diamondback newspaper reported Sunday that an upcoming referendum will ask voters in the liberal New Deal-era town whether the city’s charter should be amended to lower the minimum voting age to 16.
While the referendum on November’s ballot is purely advisory, Greenbelt Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis — who supports lowering the voting age — told the University of Maryland’s student paper that she expects that a “yes” vote would sway wavering town council members to approve a change to the charter.
According to the Diamondback, the plan has been debated since being proposed by the city’s Youth Advisory Committee in 2015, but it failed to win the supermajority needed to amend the city when Greenbelt’s council voted on the matter in August. That’s when city fathers instead opted to put the decision before the voters in this fall’s election.
Greenbelt’s municipal elections, while held in November, are conducted in odd-numbered years and run independently of state and federal elections, where the minimum age to vote remains 18.
Should Greenbelt adopt a 16-year-old voting age, it would become the third Maryland city to do so, following Takoma Park (2013) and Hyattsville (2015), both of which also allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections.
On Tuesday night, neighboring College Park, Maryland, is expected to decide the fate of a proposal to allow noncitizens the vote. One option before the city council there is postponing the decision by authorizing a nonbinding referendum in November to allow the public to weigh in on the matter.
At least two city councilors, however, have expressed concern with putting noncitizen voting, which they described as a “civil rights” issue, up for a public vote.
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