Friday Question of the Day – Voting?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jacques Arsenault

This week’s is a two-parter both reader requests. Should 16 year old District residents be given the right to vote? The Washington Post reports:

“But under the proposal in Washington, the nation’s capital would go further than any state or municipality by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in federal elections.”

I see this and think – jeeze I was an idiot when I was 16. But then I think – I was also an idiot when I was 18 so I’m conflicted…

Now for the second part from another reader – are you registered to vote in DC, MD or VA? Did you vote in the last election? Local and Federal? For those who aren’t registered, how long have you lived in the area? For those who were registered but didn’t vote – do you think you’ll vote in 2016?

56 Comment

  • I registered to vote in DC at the DMV while getting my DC drivers license. Does anyone know how long it takes to get my voter card? I got my license in August. Wasn’t sure if this was a case of DC being slow or if they just didn’t do it.

  • I’d like to think that many readers here vote, but really I think this tells us more about social desirability bias and the inaccuracy of polling data than anything else.

    • I dunno…I’m proud of having voted in every election since I was 18, and I know several friends of the same stripe. I actually injured myself right before the last election, so my plan to walk to my polling place (about a mile from my house, and the bus that could get me closer required 4 blocks walking near my home and 2 near the polling place) came crashing down around me. I called in to find out how I could vote more accessibly, and ended up voting at the BOE at Judiciary Square (easy to get to from my office, requiring minimal walking). It had exactly zero impact on the results, but I still found a way…limpy and in pain and all. At least when they told me about that option (I believe it was technically a same-day absentee ballot), I knew where to go, since I also voted absentee there in the 2008 general election (I was out of the country on election day).
      HA! And, then there was the 2008 Presidential primary…I think. We had a terrible ice storm that day, and I had to basically ice-skate home after voting at my polling place, using a few people’s yard fences for some stability. At least it was far closer to where I lived then, and had sidewalks the whole way (the most efficient walking route to my current polling place doesn’t have sidewalks the whole way, so I have to either walk out of my way or walk in the street for a few blocks…I usually stick a strobe light (yeah, the kind cyclists wear) on my back and walk in the street…).

      • Cool story bro. I still think a large portion of those 87% who claim to have voted are lying.

        • Yikes. Was it really necessary to get in the “cool story bro” retort? You might not have found JoDa’s post to be interesting or particularly responsive to your post, but maybe just let it go out of common courtesy/decency/neighborliness?

        • All you’re doing is questioning the veracity of online polling. Does anyone expect scientifically accurate data from an online poll such as this? Or is it more of a way for a publication to engage its readers and spur discussion?

        • Right back at ya, bro. That’s a nice little story that you don’t believe that a self-selected sample of self-selected readers who probably skew toward the “vote regularly” demographics are lying.

    • Blithe

      Probably not. No one voting is identifiable — so claiming some social desirability bias from the act of voting anonymously in an internet poll is a stretch. Further, the population of people that read this blog are self-selected, as is the group of people who choose to participate in the poll. There’s no reason to assume that the sample of people who choose to participate in the poll reflects the population of people that read this blog — let alone any other larger, possibly more diverse population.
      tldr: The purpose of the poll is simply, as Truxton Thomas pointed out, “to engage readers and spur discussion.” There is no “anything else”. Since there is no “anything else”, “accuracy” isn’t really an issue here.

  • I live in Arlington now (see handle). I very recently moved a quarter mile within Arlington.

    Since I thought my old and new addresses had the same polling station, I showed at that station, complete with my drivers license, my voter’s registration, and assorted documentation of my recent move.

    When I told the that station I had moved, I was sent to a side desk where a nice guy spent 10 minutes poring through a big book. Then he told me that there were two different polling stations for the two addresses, and I had to vote at the one with my new address.

    So, I headed over there, and told that station my story. More consulting and rulebook reading. Then the manager came over and informed me that the first station had made a mistake, and I had to return there to vote.

    At that point, I had spent an hour attempting to vote, and there wasn’t anything on the ballot I really cared about, so I gave up. No sticker for me.

    • This is such BS in my opinion. Just let people vote!

    • Since DC is essentially a one party town, you need to be voting in the primary to have an impact and at the primary level you’re really fighting the old DC political machine. If people want to get Bowser out, they need to be thinking about the primaries because once we get to the general, she’s in.

      • Don’t know why this appeared under a guy from Virginia’s post.

      • True story: Maybe about 10 years ago, in a fit of pique at the Democratic party and how it’s really done nothing to advance DC voting rights, I attempted to register Republican as a protest (this was back when Catania was a Republican too). My new card came, and lo and behold nothing changed. My registration was still as a Democrat. It was as if someone at BOEE said, “Oh no, dear. You don’t want to do that.” One party town indeed.

    • Then you were stupid. You should know you have to register to vote at your new address – voting districts can be small, and you don’t know where exactly the line between them is. When I move within a city and don’t get around to re-registering before the next election, I just vote at my old polling place. Technically, not where I am supposed to vote, but I do get to vote. Tell them you don’t live there anymore, as you did, and you don’t get to vote.

  • andy

    push it all back to 21. Voting, driving, drinking, talking to me, etc.

  • I’m 30, married with no children and we rent our apartment. I’ll be honest, there’s not many elections where I can vote and it even matters. The only one where I felt like the vote mattered was for the Mayoral primary. We still don’t have Congressional representation (Norton for life or something, right?), DC will always vote Democratic in the Presidential race (so the primary maybe matters?), and the local elections just seem almost pointless.
    I still vote and still feel like it’s my duty, but I don’t hold it against any other DC resident who chooses not to.

    • “there’s not many elections where I can vote and it even matters”
      Statistically speaking there has never been any state wide election in you were eligible to vote and the chance your vote matters is greater than 0.

    • Honestly, voting in the ANC election probably has more day to day impact on your life. And hardly anyone votes in those or even follows the candidates stance on issues. I have been to tons of ANC meetings throughout the City and its sad, stunning how insane some of these commissioners are. Some should be in jail for harrassment. They carry great weight on matters of development, retail, liquor licensing and all kinds of other qaulity of life issues in your neigborhoods. Some Commissioners are really top notch and should cosnider a run for Council. Others need to get lives, get medicated and vacate their seat asap.

      • Agreed. ANC commissioners have direct impact on your daily life. They have say on who gets or doesn’t get a liqueur license. Who can do an addition to their house or build a garage. Want to have a say in how your neighborhood develops pay attention to who is running for ANC and vote accordingly. That or you get crazies like Kathy Henderson in ANC5D.

    • I know that smaller elections are less exciting than the ones that determine who sits in the Oval Office, but they all matter. Not caring about statewide elections has resulted in there being fewer elected officials who are willing to push back when the GOP decides to pull crazy things like attacking reproductive rights, voting rights, implementing redistricting that ensures that the GOP stays in power, regardless of how few people vote for them, etc.

  • I am registered, but under my maiden name, so I couldn’t vote in this last election. When I changed my name on my license (in VA) they told me that I could update my registration right then and there but that sometimes it won’t go through since the name change hasn’t been fully processed until you get the license in the mail and to just do it once I receive the license. This was last winter. And then of course I forgot to take care of it until the week before this election, which was too late. It drives me nuts that we can’t just walk in vote anywhere in our state of residency with any form of ID. I’ll make sure to get it taken care of before the primaries.

  • Seems like a good way to expand that progressive voter base.

  • Absentee. All day, everyday. Ain’t no one got time to deal with polling lines.

  • I Dont Get It

    If 18 is the minimum age to join the military (is it?) than that should be the minimum age to vote.

    • Agreed. Lowering the voting age to 16 is just a cynical mass mobilizing GoTV tactic by certain interest groups. If you’re still being claimed as a credit on your parent’s taxes, should you be voting? If you can’t legal serve your country, should you be voting? Will 16 year-old’s be required to also serve on juries (*shudder*)?

      • At 16 you can work and pay taxes ( I did). At 16 you drive. At 16 you can be convicted of a crime as an adult. What’s the difference between 16 and 18?

        Plus, from what I’ve read people who first vote young (currently at 18) tend to have higher life long voting rates then people who vote later (like after college). Get the kids engaged young and we can maybe have better voter turnout in the future. We had something like 30 or 40% turnout at our last election. We clearly need to do something for voter engagement.

        • Blithe

          At 14 you can work and pay taxes — I did. So if you strongly feel that working and paying taxes — and thus having a personal stake in how tax money is spent, would you support lowering the voting age even further?

    • Blithe

      I’d like the age at which one is considered an adult to be more uniform. So if, at 18, you can join the military, get married, and legally sign contracts, I think that voting and jury service should also be 18.
      – As a tangent, the last time I served on a jury, I did wonder if age was/should be a factor in being a “jury of ones peers”, since almost all of us who served were old enough to be the parent of the person who was on trial — and our viewpoints, while varied, were possibly quite different in systematic ways from “peers” who would be closer to the person’s age. I think the standard of “reasonable” is definitely something that varies according to many things, and age is likely to be one of those things for multiple reasons.

  • binpetworth

    I voted for Clinton in ’92 in my very first election, then was a slacker & didn’t vote at all in my 20s. Then I served as an international election observer in some post-conflict societies, and it really drove home the fact that I should feel lucky to exercise my rights. So now I vote religiously, even in the tiniest local polls. I don’t have a problem with lowering the voting age–the more we can encourage young people to participate in the democratic process, the better.

  • I think 16 is probably too young. Very few kids that age, at least in my experience, know or care about elections, unless it’s the big one. At least at 18 there’s some hope of instilling a sense of civic responsibility, and I think it’s a little more of a rite of passage.
    My sister swears by absentee voting, but I like going to my polling place. Sometimes they have cookies!

    • All of the reasons I see here against lowering the voting age should also prevent most adults from voting–cant under stand the implications, don’t know or care about elections, lack a sense of civic duty, etc,
      Lowering the age won’t force kids to vote. If they don’t care they can abstain and join the majority of american adults that stand aside and let the rest of us make decisions for them.

  • I’m a registered DC voter and voted in the last election. Until I moved to DC, I didn’t need a party affiliation. I learned the hard way that the real DC elections are the primaries.
    As for 16 year olds voting, I’m not in favor of it. It’s too young and don’t really understand the potential implications of their vote. I remember that even at 18, I voted not really understanding the potential implications. I guess the same could also be said of older people in other parts of the country who continuously vote against their own interests or vote based on deceptive ad campaigns.

    • What is it about some old folks that turns them so self-centered and antagonistic (besides medical issues…that’s not what I’m questioning here)? My grandmother used to vote against every single school funding levy WHEN MY SIBLINGS AND I WERE IN SCHOOL! Her logic was something like “I already paid for my kids to be educated, I shouldn’t have to pay any more.” She even voted against one that would have ended a teachers strike, and we ended up going to school until MID-JULY that year because the strike lasted so long. And then told us that we deserved it since our teachers were so greedy.
      Today, the starting salary for a teacher in that school district is *$19,000,* (hardly greedy) and my grandfather was a union worker who walked picket lines in his day. I have no idea where the hell her attitude came from!

  • Absentee voting? I second the motion.
    The best part is, the City sends the ballot automatically a couple weeks ahead of the mail-in deadline, so you are always ready. This has increased my participation (to 100%) in all elections, including those that aren’t mayoral or presidential.

    • As for 16 year olds? I am only lukewarm to the idea. I am not clear on what problem it solves. The switch to 18 was a clear win – expanding to include those old enough to serve in the military makes sense to me. (And isn’t 18 the legal age for other things, like contracts? Not drinking, of course…)
      But to include anyone eligible for a driver’s license? I am not convinced. Do we have any evidence that people who start voting at 16 become more regular voters than those who waited until 18? That could be compelling.

      • That’s about the only point I can see for it. Or if they started teaching rhetoric in high school and could encourage kids to vote whilst teaching them how to decode the BS from politicians. Course then they won’t want to vote…

  • I want to know how many are registered to a party. I’m independent, but am considering registering as a democrat, because as others have said, it’s all about the primaries here.

    • Yeah, I don’t see the point in NOT being a registered democrat in DC. Even if that’s not your actual affiliation, it’s about the only way your vote means anything.

    • I’m registered independent. I’m going to have to change my id over from MD to DC soon and will probably stay registered as an independent. I had Democrat friends who were bothered that I wouldn’t change my party affiliations for the primaries, but I have no desire to be affiliated with either party. I

  • I don’t see a compelling reason to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

  • I think 16 is to young, but, frankly, I would rather have 16-year-olds voting than driving because the latter is much more likely to ruin someone’s life. As a practical matter, lowering the voting age to 16 probably wouldn’t really mean much because very few would actually vote.

    • “As a practical matter, lowering the voting age to 16 probably wouldn’t really mean much because very few would actually vote.” This is true.

  • Blithe

    I am registered — and I have voted in every presidential election and many local elections since I have been old enough to vote. Too many people fought — and even died — for my right to vote for me to dismiss the small but significant political power that I have through voting.
    – This post is a reminder that I need to investigate changing from being registered as an Independent — something that I feel strongly about — if I want to vote in the presidential primary election.

    • andy

      if you live in DC, voting in the Presidential elections is the least relevant voting you can do. First, a Democrat will win DC’s electoral votes for the foreseeable future. And imagine a Bernie Sanders DC primary win. Will it have an influence on the national campaign? No. If you live in DC, you have amazing and unique opportunities to be involved in the Presidential election process, but voting is not realistically one of them.

      It is more important to vote locally. DC’s national profile as a progressive, improving, growing innovative city and its policies toward our fellow citizens of all classes, races, backgrounds, etc., can be influenced by just a few thousand votes, including yours.

      • Blithe

        Great points ! — but I now live — and am registered to vote — in Maryland. I haven’t always voted locally, in the various cities where I’ve lived, in part, because I wanted to do so as an informed voter, and as a student, for example, was concerned about impacting local politics in a way that I viewed as being possibly inappropriate — an attitude that is definitely arguable.
        -As an aside, because I grew up in DC, my HS government class included a lot of descriptions of the political process, followed by the caveat “but of course, in DC, we don’t have that”. So it, perhaps, took me longer than most to realize the importance and power of local elections.

  • You have to set a cutoff somewhere, and 18 is where we set it for lots of other things. I don’t see any reason to make voting different. Lowering to 18 made a lot of sense, especially when we had compulsory service and were sending lots of 18 year olds off to die. Nowadays almost none of them serve, and the ones who do can vote. Seems good enough to me.
    I would like to see the drinking age reduced to 18 and the driving age increased to 18 though.

  • The case for allowing 16 year olds to vote is strong, in my opinion. Legislatures enact laws/policies that have a significant impact on future generations — and these impacts are often negative. The individuals who best represent the interests of these future generations are those who are currently very young. The impact of allowing younger people to vote may be small, but directionally it will necessarily favor more forward-looking policies.

    Moreover, from an economic perspective, people who are ~16 may be the most valuable members of society: they have the longest time horizon over which to contribute value to society but don’t require the same care (in economic terms) that younger children do. Not representing their interests through the democratic process creates opportunities to misappropriate their rights and abilities. The military draft occurred before 18 year olds had the right to vote. Giving 16 year olds the right to vote would make it much less likely to happen again. It would be much harder (politically) to support a military conflict if the putative labor supply for that conflict was not shut out of the political process. And preventing our most valuable members of society from being compelled into military service is necessarily a good thing, in my opinion.

  • I’ve never understood why people don’t vote…

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