Why not? Who cares if it’s ridiculous and unconstitutional?
by Rob Roper
PJ O’Rourke famously wrote, giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. Well, if only PJ had lived to see that the Vermont legislature has done him one better by giving to those very same liquored-up teenage boys … and girls… access to actual money and political power.
Yes, the town of Brattleboro decided it might be a good idea to let sixteen and seventeen-year-olds vote in local elections and even hold public office. You know, those lovable scamps skipping class to make out in the band room or sneak puffs off a joint behind the dumpsters in the high school parking lot. The ones whose mothers need to remind them to make their beds and clean their rooms at least once a year. The ones who’ve most likely never held a full-time job, let alone made a mortgage payment, or cut a check to cover their local property taxes. Yes, them.
And we’re talking about Brattleboro teenagers no less — who made national news when they thought it would be a good idea to start wandering around town naked just to see how people would react. These are the thought processes you want on your city council answering questions about how to handle the Agricultural Advisory Committee’s recommendation regarding the Ag Land Preservation Fund? Okay.
Certainly, saner heads would prevail in the Capitol when Brattleboro’s request for a charter change allowing this foolishness reached the General Assembly for approval. For one thing, the idea is blatantly unconstitutional. Section 42 of the Vermont Constitution, Voter’s qualifications and oath, reads, “Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States,… shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state.” If common sense weren’t enough, you’d think at least that would be the end of it.
Oh, but you would be wrong. Things like the constitution don’t matter to this crowd. H.386 amending the town charter of Brattleboro to allow “youth voters” to vote for local offices and serve as members of Representative Town Meeting and the Select Board passed 103 to 33 on a largely party-line vote (Democrats and Progressives in favor, Republicans opposed.) That is a veto-proof majority.
This is similar to the 102-47 vote taken a year ago on the same request. The House overrode the governor’s veto, but the bill ended up dying in the Senate despite having passed with a seemingly veto proof majority of 20-9 in that equally goofy body. So here we go again.
In registering her objections to this insanity a year ago, House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy (R-Poultney) noted,
…according to the framework Democrats have structured, those same 16-year-olds would have to wait two years before they could play the lottery or join the military; 6 years before they could purchase alcohol or tobacco; and 7 years before they could be considered an adult for criminal proceedings…. In fact, when Vermont Democrats recently worked to raise the age of “youthful offenders” through age 22, they cited research indicating that these younger individuals take more risks, are more prone to peer pressure, and are less future oriented.”
Brilliant! Give kids access to the town coffers, while making it impossible to charge them as adults if they embezzle every last penny to spend on bubble gum flavored vape juice. Or are they too young to buy that?
But here’s where Rep. McCoy misses the mark. It is precisely because these politicians know that inexperienced, developing, often confused young people are more prone to peer pressure, are more likely to do stupid things, and care less about future consequences that they can be easily manipulated. And manipulate them for their own political purposes is exactly what they intend to do.
The truly sad part in all of this is that we can see how the increased politicization of school and school children is leading to increased levels of anxiety and mental health issues — and all that comes with that — among adolescents. Let kids be kids.
Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics, robertroper.substack.com