Rockville may decrease voting age to 16


Hannah Lee

Many RM students who were at least 18 years old voted in the gubernatorial elections of November 2022. There was a ballot drop box in front of the main entrance.

Aisosa Ojo-Odiase, Hannah Lee, and Claire Yu

Rockville’s Board of Supervisors of Elections (BSOE) and Charter Review Commission have forwarded a proposal to lower the city’s voting age from the U.S. status quo of 18 years to 16 years. 

If the proposal is approved, Rockville would be the second city nationwide to lower its voting age to 16, after Takoma Park. Eligible teens could register to vote while they get their driver’s license. The Commission also aims for potentially increasing voter turnout with the lower age. 

This idea has been in the works since last year, after Rockville city officials examined the effects of Takoma Park’s 2013 decision to drop the voting age. Currently, the state of Maryland allows cities to change the voting age to 16-17. 

The Commission’s official 2022 report describes their reasons for lowering the voting age. It states that “[p]eople who are 16 and 17 years of age are a part of our community, experience and receive Rockville Government services, are impacted by policies in which they have no voice… and contribute to their households and their community.” Moreover, the Commission claims that “the preconceived notion that people who are aged 16 or 17 as new voters will not be informed when selecting candidates for our municipal election is discriminatory.” 

Some, such as Rockville City Council Member Mark Pierzchala, disagree. “I don’t think most high school age people have the awareness of [city] issues and knowledge of the impacts of various positions on how people live their lives in Rockville,” he said. “An election year is not the year to implement any other changes… [as they will] likely to favor one group of people or another.”

Marissa Valeri, mother of an RM freshman and a member of the Commission, has been closely involved in the approval procedure for lowering the city’s voting age. She thinks that many Rockville residents are currently unaware of discussions regarding the potential shift. “It’s been a lot of grassroots organizing and honestly just a lot of helping to spread the word that this is even happening,” Ms. Valeri said. 

According to Ms. Valeri, the policy change is a complex process. “The Mayor and Council received our recommendations, and they get to decide which changes will be made,” she said. “If the community feels strongly about an issue that the Mayor and Council support, they can vote to implement it. If the community feels strongly about an issue but the Mayor and Council do not, then it could be put on the next city ballot as a referendum.”

Many RM students appear to support the possible change. “I know through my son and the children of friends of mine who go to RM that there is anecdotal support for lowering the voting age,” Ms. Valeri said. 

“I think it will be good to decrease [the] voting age because it opens up the floor for new ideas from young people,” sophomore D’Angelo Reyes said. 

Freshman Makayla Risso shares similar sentiments. “What we’re voting for is for someone who can take care of the city, and most of the things that need to be taken care of in the city are things to do with younger people,” she said. “We should be able to choose who we think would [do the best] in helping make us more successful.”

However, Risso believes that 16 year olds should only be allowed to vote for political candidates, and not other aspects like legislation. “With what has been going on with the guns, I don’t think it would be good if we let 16 year olds decide what is right and wrong for policy specifically,” she said.

“Younger residents will see the impact of the policies well into the future, when folks my age are no longer around,” Ms. Valeri said. “So I believe strongly that they should have a voice and a vote.”