MARYLAND

Takoma Park teens cast their votes

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TAKOMA PARK, Md. (WJLA) - Tuesday is a historic day in Takoma Park, where voters as young as 16 years old will be allowed to cast ballots.

In May, the Takoma City Council granted 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections. This is the first community in the nation to lower the voting age to 16.

It could have otherwise been a mundane and awfully predictable election in Takoma Park -- after all, the mayor and all six council members ran uncontested.

But then, Nick Byron and James Fair arrived. Two good friends and two of the roughly 300 Takoma Park teenagers now eligible to vote.

"The fact that I was filling in a circle, I was bubbling it in, and I got to put it in the scanner... I'm really glad I have a chance to do this," said Byron.

On Friday, Alanna Natanson became the first teenager to cast a ballot during early voting.

"I was nervous that the process would be difficult," she said. "The ballot was easy and then turning it in was easy, so I was glad there wasn't any room for me to make a mistake."

Also new this election day in Takoma Park -- a vote for convicted felons out on parole and probation.

Jerry Cowan was released from prison in March, and felt something he hadn’t felt in 32 years: respect.

"When you give us the privilege to cast our vote, you're saying, 'you belong, we welcome you and you're just like us too,'" he said.

All in all, it was an election that focused more on setting an example over winning a race.

And this isn’t the first time Takoma Park has turned heads on Election Day. Back in the 1980’s, it stopped requiring residents to show proof of U.S. citizenship during municipal elections – a decision that still stands today.

City officials say about 90-percent of Takoma Park's eligible younger voters have registered to vote.

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