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Golden may lower the voting age to 16 for local elections

The City Council in Golden voted on Monday unanimously to refer a question to the November ballot that would, if passed, lower the voting age in municipal elections to 16. You'd still have to be 18 to vote in state or federal elections.

Voters in Golden could decide in November to allow 16 and 17-year-olds a vote in municipal elections after City Council voted unanimously to refer a question to the ballot on Monday.

"Starting lifelong voting habits and increasing voter turnout are both great outcomes," said City Council member Laura Weinberg. "There’s not really a downside on either of those. The more voters who feel engaged and want to vote makes for a better city."

Council member Casey Brown points to other towns that have adopted a lower voting age.

"The studies show that it is really quite successful in getting kids to turn out and increasing voter turnout for their entire lives," he said.

According to the U.S. Census, nearly 70 percent of those 45 and above vote in presidential election years. A little less than 60 percent of 30 to 44-year-olds vote in those same elections. And less than 50 percent of those 18 to 29 bother voting in big election years.

Two Maryland towns - Takoma Park in 2013 and Hyattsville in 2015 - have lowered their local voting ages to 16 and several are considering this kind of proposal besides Golden.

Washington D.C. is considering letting 16 to 17-year-olds vote in the 2020 presidential election, according to 9NEWS sister-station WUSA in D.C. The proposal was put forward by D.C. council member Charles Allen after he said he was inspired by the political activism he saw in the students from Parkland High School in Florida after the shooting there.

If D.C. approves the measure, it would be the first municipality to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in federal elections.

Several Massachusetts towns are considering lowering the voting age to 16, including Holyoke and Northampton.

This push for lowering the voting age has prompted quite a large wave of think pieces on the subject, many falling on the line of "maybe it's not a bad idea." An opinion piece in the Canadian National Post, responding to a proposal in Ontario that might lower the voting age in the city of Calgary, wonders, "where do we stop?"

"What, after all, is so special about 16, any more than 18?" wonders Andrew Coyne in the article. "Supporters like to say they know many 16-year-olds who are as bright and informed as any 18-year-old, which is surely true. In the same way, there are undoubtedly many 14-year-olds as bright and informed as any 16-year-old. And many 12-year-olds who are as bright and informed as any 14-year old. And so on."

An opinion piece in the Washington Examiner titled "Don't let 16-year-olds rock the vote" featuring the top photo of a small boy behind a desk decked out in voting gear, wonders if there's a compelling reason to lower the voting age.

"If 16-year-olds voting is the answer to some problem we have," David Davenport writes in the piece, "I guess I do not understand the question."

The last time the voting age was lowered nationally was when the 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971. The push then was to allow young men conscripted into the armed forces the change to have a voice in who shapes American policy - both at home and abroad.

Followers of 9NEWS have been sounding off about the issue to Katie Eastman on Twitter, the 9NEWS reporter on scene in Golden and on the 9NEWS Facebook page. The responses have been mixed.

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