Rockville may lower its voting age from 18 to 16, drawing it in line with a national trend and making it the second county municipality to do so.
A slate of electoral changes under consideration by Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council includes expanding the council from four to six members shifting from an at-large model to a district model, enacting term limits and rescheduling municipal elections to presidential or gubernatorial years, city officials announced this week.
Newton and City Council members are scheduled to discuss—and potentially vote on—any of the following recommendations from the city’s charter review commission, according to a news release:
- Lowering the voting age in city elections from 18 to 16, regardless of whether someone is a citizen
- Expanding the mayor and City Council from five members to seven (from the current mayor and four members to a mayor and six members)
- Creating a district model for the City Council. The charter review commission said that the mayor and council should decide on the structure, including whether there should be at-large seats.
- Enacting term limits of three consecutive four-year terms for the mayor or council. City Council members and the mayor could still run for either position after the limit.
- Establishing a “precise, open, transparent, and definitive administrative process for the election of a Councilmember when a vacancy occurs after the 24th month of a term,” according to the release
- Examining whether ranked choice voting should be used in city elections
- Changing the city elections schedule so that they align with presidential or gubernatorial years
In 2013, Takoma Park became the first city nationwide to lower its voting age from 18 to 16. In neighboring Prince George’s County, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and Mount Rainier also allow the practice.
The D.C. Council declined to take up legislation that would have lowered the age to 16 in a split vote in 2018. Federal lawmakers have proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but so far, it has not garnered enough support.
Sara Taylor-Ferrell, Rockville’s city clerk, said in an interview that the charter review commission consisted of 11 city residents who were given their scope of work by the mayor and City Council several months ago to come up with any recommendations.
Changing the size of the City Council could help better representation of the city—especially as the council has not grown in her 26 years of service in the city, she said.
And changing from at-large seats to at least some district seats could also impact how the mayor and council work with each other, Taylor-Ferrell added.
“Right now, we’re [all] at-large [council seats], and so it might change the dynamics of mayor and council,” Taylor-Ferrell said.
The mayor and City Council are expected to act on whether to increase the size of the council, but multiple other changes will require charter amendments, which need to be on the ballot for city elections in November, she added.
A public hearing for the council size will be held around Jan. 30, and public hearings for the other recommendations will be scheduled for early February, Taylor-Ferrell said.