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Baltimore County

Baltimore County voters to decide on lowering eligibility age for County Council

Baltimore County voters will decide next year whether to lower the eligible age to hold a seat on the County Council to 21, after the council unanimously approved legislation this month to propose the charter change.

Under current county law, candidates for the council must meet the same standards for election as state senators, who are required to be at least 25-years-old by Election Day.

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Nearby localities have set a range of age requirements for elected positions. In Baltimore City and Montgomery County, residents as young as 18 may run for a council seat. In Carroll County, prospective candidates must be at least 21. Anne Arundel and Howard counties set the minimum election age at 25.

If approved, the change wouldn’t take effect until the 2026 election.

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“This charter change only continues to encourage youth to be more politically engaged by giving them the opportunity to run for office at age 21,” said Democratic council chair Julian Jones, who introduced the bill, in a statement.

It was co-sponsored by council members Izzy Patoka, a Democrat, and Republicans Wade Kach and David Marks — who is the youngest current council member at 47.

Ruben Amaya, a 20-year-old Democratic candidate running against Del. Jay Jalisi to represent the 10th Legislative District in western Baltimore County, pushed for the bill’s introduction when he first approached Jones about the amendment in the spring. The minimum age to run for a House seat in Maryland is 21.

“This current law, it would prevent someone like me from running for council in 2022,” Amaya said.

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Changing the law would give “our young people the opportunity to seek public office in 2026 and beyond,” said Amaya, a Stevenson University junior.

”We’re paving the way for young people to see that they do have a seat at the table,” he said.

Amaya recently served as an organizer for Baltimore County Youth Speaks, a group convened to support Jones’ first police reform bill last summer before it was tabled. The council later approved the Strengthening Modernization, Accountability, Reform, and Transparency, or SMART, Policing Act.

The number of young adults running for office has ballooned in recent years, said Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

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“An overwhelming number of young people [have] stepped up,” she said. “That is what we want to see; we want to empower young people to step up and save their communities, even if that includes running for office.”

The Millennial Action Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit supporting candidates under the age of 45, recorded a 266% increase in millennials running for public office from 2018 to 2020.

“With what we’ve seen around the country, the county and state, I think people will support this,” Amaya said.


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