Legislature gives non-taxpaying Brattleboro teens power to tax adults

NYRA.org photo credit

By Guy Page

The Vermont Senate Friday approved a Brattleboro town charter change allowing 16 and 17 year olds and some 15 year olds to vote in town elections and run for office.

The charter change was passed by the House last April. Friday’s vote gave H361 preliminary Senate approval. If given final approval by the Senate tomorrow morning, the charter change will go to Gov. Phil Scott for his signature. The bill passed both House and Senate with more than a two-thirds vote, indicating a veto override might succeed. 

Last year, the Legislature approved Montpelier and Winooski charter changes giving non-citizens the right to participate in local elections. In September the Vermont GOP and several interested citizens filed suit against the law, calling it “a blatant attack on election integrity” that violates the state constitution which requires Vermont voters to be U.S. citizens.

Chapter II, Section 42 of the Vermont Constitution reads:

“Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state.”

Supporters of non-citizen and youth voting say the Constitution applies only to state voting, not municipal voting. Under H361, all teens who turn 16 by Town Meeting Day are permitted to register to vote in local elections.

The nine senators voting no Friday included seven Republicans and two Democrats: Sens. Alice Nitka (Windsor) and Mark MacDonald (Orange). Sen. Robert Starr (Essex-Orleans), who is listed as a Democrat on the legislative website, voted yes with the majority.

In an op-ed submitted this weekend, Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) – one of the nine “no” votes – said giving non-taxpayers the right to tax others sets a bad precedent. 

“The Brattleboro teenagers under 18 who’d become select board members were going to be given authority to tax, but they had no responsibility to pay those taxes,” Benning said. “It was, in a sense, complete reversal of the concept of ‘no taxation without representation.’ Authority without responsibility is bad precedent.”

“Oddly enough,” Benning added, “We’re pursuing this path at the very same time we are seeking to ‘raise the age’ of those subject to adult criminal penalties, after recognizing the human brain doesn’t reach full development before the mid 20’s.”

Also, the Vermont House is considering a bill to prohibit underage marriage. 

The House vote last year stirred citizen protest, including Robert Fireovid of Grand Isle County: “Looking back, I have to you say that all the 16-year-old teenagers in my world, including my kids and myself, were clueless – clueless about what it takes to be wholly responsible for my own welfare, let alone be responsible for the welfare of everyone in my community,” he wrote in a May 10 op-ed in the Vermont Daily Chronicle. “Giving voting privileges to 16 and 17 year-olds dilutes the voting rights of those 18 and older.”

The Brattleboro charter change was celebrated by town resident and Senate President Becca Balint (D-Windham). 

“As a resident and voter of Brattleboro, as a former social studies teacher, and as someone who got my start in politics by being an elected member to our Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting, I support this charter change. We have been talking about this for a long time in my hometown. And the vote was overwhelming at representative town meeting.

“Vermont is held together by duct tape, twine, and civic engagement. We should do all we can to get residents engaged in our democracy early in their lives. I’m proud the Senate supported this charter change and I’m excited for the young people of Brattleboro who have fought for this opportunity over the past ten years.”

The push for teenage voters is a nationwide effort. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) voted for a bill that approved teen voting. The bill failed in the House, however.

The website procon.org lists three pros to 16-year-old voting:

  1. 16 year olds and knowledgeable and capable of making wise decisions.
  2. Lowering the voting age will increase turnout.
  3. At age 16, people should have a voice in determining their nation’s laws and policies.

and three cons:

  1. Kids under age 18 aren’t mature enough to participate in elections.
  2. The 18-29 age group has low turnout numbers, suggesting people even younger aren’t ready to participate.
  3. The majority of voting Americans do not support 16 year old voting.

19 replies »

    • HOW ‘BOUT THIS! If you are old enough to vote and spend taxpayer funds, you are old enough to pay taxes and solve the problems that you create. That’s what adults do! That is just as dangerous as a child buying a firearm!

      • Problem is most significant taxes are accessed by property value. So these 16 & 17 year olds (and some 15 year olds) who don’t own a house, (many or them don’t even have a license to drive a car.

  1. Look, what does it take for dimocRATS to understand that these Communists are blatantly enacting every single possible unconstitutional & idiotic & democracy-destroying bill they want to in order to insure – FOREVER – a one party “rule”.And RULE they shall..

    Yet because their allies in the media do NOT report on this insanity & if they do – they find some leftist loon to somehow sing the praises of this utter insanity, there will likely be NO opposition to this evil in November & Vermont will be utterly unrecognizable.

    The GOP better start writing letters to the editors & making certain they are published, the national GOP & VT must begin lawsuits for unconstitutionality of bills and of propositions sent to the voters, they must take out ads on TV, and bring these issues up LOUD & CLEAR in any & all public debates.

    STOP being weak & meek, GOP – as THAT is where THIS has taken us!

  2. Coming to a theater near you ! The lunacy of this beyond belief ! Even most 18 year olds can not/do not grasp the real world consequences of voting, and the games associated with it to influence those that can be influenced. Example, I voted for Jimmy Carter when I was 18.The only thing that seemed to matter to me at the time was he was not associated with Richard Nixon, and his regime. Hind sight being 20/20, even while Carter was president, it was very evident that I had made a mistake. Would Gerald Ford have presided over the “Sleeping Malize” that Carter himself admitted to ? We’ll never know, at least in part due to the young, impressionable, politically under educated electorate of that time. (like me!) These children are even more easily swayed (indoctrinated), and because they are younger, will remain so for a longer duration.

  3. So this is more from the progressive socialist party. These same progressive socialists are on TV now pushing their Ranked Choice voting lie!! If they can get the kids to vote then Vermont will look like that unlivable sewer Burlington!!

  4. Info please… didn’t some law recently raise the age a person can be charged as an “adult” because a youthful offender wouldn’t know any better? Please confirm or correct me. Thank you.

  5. Chapter II, Section 42 of the Vermont Constitution reads:

    “Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state.”

    if this is what the Vermont constitution says and it does, this law is unconstitutional. Prove me wrong!

  6. I’m getting ot my hip waders………the **** is getting very deep. is there an end in site…..well yes there can be come November and I’ll mention again TERM LIMITS are a start to this madness

    • The facts are 16 and 17 year olds (and some 15 year olds) many still collecting an allowance from their parents. Most will NO work experience, and the ones that have a job work P/T. Our OUT OF TOUCH progressives and democratic clowns want to expand the vote because not because 15, 16, & 17 year olds have a greater understanding to civics, our Constitution, and how to spend money. But since the Progressives and Democrat’s have taken over our educational system, the odds of 15, 16, and 17 year olds to vote democratic is greatly increased. It’s all about the vote, any way they can get it. The schools can tell them how to vote.

      • Rvanornu. you hit right on the nails head. 16, 17 yos have no idea what responsiblilty is. Most of them wouldn’t even get out of bed to go vote. They “think” they know what’s going on in the world. They don’t. only thing they know about is, video games, smoking pot, sneaking drinks, cheating on tests and asking their parents for money, as they are too lazy to get off their butts to get a pt job.. They are not smart enough to vote.

  7. How can we possibly give people under 18 – who have never paid any taxes and have been indoctrinated to think they don’t have to work for anything vote for “stuff” they want at my expense? They will be taking votes from those of us who are voting to not get priced out of our homes! Who votes for these leaders! It is UNREAL! How can this be legal?

  8. Glad I’ve moved out of Brattleboro. A once wonderfully quintessential, hardworking Vermont town, it is now slowly circling the drain. A condition brought to the area by the progressive, liberal, flatland carpetbaggers who have taken over the town, and the fools who vote them into office. Poor Brattleboro…

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