Statement in support of allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Hyattsville elections

December 1, 2014

[In absentia, in front of the City Council Meeting; City Building, 4310 Gallatin Street]

Good evening. First, i would like to thank Edouard Haba for reading this statement since I am stuck home with the flu.

My name is Shannon Wyss. I’m a homeowner in Ward 4 and would like to speak strongly in favor of extending the vote to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in Hyattsville. As a forty-two-year-old who would have dearly loved to vote at that age, I’m excited by the possibility of extending the franchise to younger residents.

Youth have opinions and views on the world that we adults rarely take seriously. Allowing them to vote would be a way of remedying one of the instances of adultism that permeates our world. And as others have said, getting individuals involved at younger ages will help establish a lifetime of civic engagement, from which we will all benefit for generations.

For those who are concerned that teenagers are “too immature”to vote, I would like to posit that we adults don’t exactly have a great track record. In deciding whom to support at the polls, some adults make decisions based upon any number of ill-informed factors:

  • how many yard signs we see,
  • whether we believe those horrible ads on TV and the radio,
  • because our parents always voted for a particular party,
  • because our religious leaders told us to support a certain person or issue, or
  • who has the easiest-to-pronounce name.

Surely teenagers cannot do any worse than that! And, indeed, with the idealism that so often accompanies youth, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds may make more informed and more passionate choices than many of their elders.

Until we adults clean up our act, we have no room to criticize young people for the ill-informed votes that they may make at some hypothetical point in the future. And if that ends up happening, there is one easy way for adults to counteract such votes: make sure that you vote yourself!

Our democracy will only benefit from having the franchise extended by two years. I look forward to the City Council passing this important measure and to seeing an increase in voter turnout and voter engagement in upcoming city elections. I welcome the voices of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds at the polls.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important issue.

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