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Should Virginia lower its voting age for local elections? One delegate thinks so

Sam Rasoul
Steve Helber
FILE - In this Thursday March 5, 2020, file photo, Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, speaks during a debate on the floor of the House at the Capitol in Richmond, Va.

Voters in Virginia could be considering a constitutional amendment allowing 16-year-olds to cast a ballot in local elections.

Back in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War, advocates for changing the voting age from 21 to 18 adopted the slogan, "old enough to fight, old enough to vote." Now advocates might be adopting a twist on that: old enough to drive, old enough to vote.

Elijah Lee is a 14-year-old activist who wants to vote in local elections when he turns 16.

"We saw record voter turnout for Gen Z, and this just shows that we as a young generation are ready to confront the issues of homophobia," Lee says. "We’re ready to confront the issues of institutionalized racism. We’re ready to confront the issues of systemic sexism."

Delegate Sam Rasoul is a Democrat from Roanoke who has a resolution to start the process of allowing 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections.

"When I found out this was happening in other areas, I thought it would be a great opportunity for Virginia 16 and 17 year olds to be involved in the democratic process even earlier by being able to vote in local elections," he explains.

If Rasoul's resolution passes next year, members of the next General Assembly would have to approve it again after the election of 2023. And then voters would have to approve it in November 2024.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.