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Voting To Lower The Voting Age

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Can a town vote to change the voting age?

A town in Vermont voted last month on a referendum to give the right to vote in local elections to teenagers as young as 16. Pretty sure no one in Vermont has met a 16-year-old or they might think twice about giving that power.

Also, can they even do that? Do states or municipalities even have the right to change the voting age?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes and no.

When the Constitution was ratified, it didn't spell out a voting age. The 14th Amendment gave voting rights to all men over age 21 (the 19th amendment said, yeah, you too ladies).

In 1971, Nixon signed the 26th amendment lowering the voting age to 18. So states can't raise the voting age. But can they lower it? Yes.

In 19 states, 17-year-olds are already allowed to vote in primaries if they'll be 18 by the election. And the city of Takoma Park, Maryland became the first place in the country to lower its voting age to 16 for municipal elections - if the Vermont referendum passes through the state legislature, it will be the second.

Given that 36% of currently eligible voters showed up for the 2014 elections, maybe it's not such a bad idea to widen the pool of voters who might actually show up. Particularly if they think they'll be able to vote to lower the driving age.

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