Senate OKs 16-year-old voting, local office holding in Brattleboro

By Guy Page

A Brattleboro charter change allowing 16 and 17-year-old students to vote in local elections and hold local office passed the Senate 16-8 this morning, after lively discussion. 

The Senate will vote on H.386 for third and final reading tomorrow. If approved, it will go to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk for approval or veto. Scott has vetoed underage voting municipal charter changes in the past. 

Sen. Russ Ingalls (R-Essex) said giving teens the right to vote and be elected flies in the face of other Senate decisions to make the age of accountability higher, not lower. 

The Senate has held that “people up to the ages of 19 that they just aren’t capable of making smart decisions…. We ought to be consistent with the rules passed by this body,” Ingalls said. “If someone can’t be held responsible because they did not understand the decisions they were making, I cannot support this bill.”

A Democratic senator from Chittenden County agreed – at least on the half of the bill allowing election to and service on a local board. 

“What I cannot get over is a 16 or 17 year old serving on an elected council,” Sen. Tom Chittenden said. “I don’t think they should serve.” First, a good lawyer could “make hay” of any board decisions put into effect by a minor. Also, making controversial decisions invites severe criticism – even death threats – on social media, and teenagers shouldn’t be exposed to that, Chittenden said. 

Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison), chair of the Government Operations Committee, said her committee has included a clause specifically affirming that teens are allowed to sign contracts as local school board and municipal council members.

Sen. Becca White (D-Windsor), a one-time non-voting high school representative to a school board, called the current adults-only voting and serving scheme “an oligarchy of older Vermonters.”

But Republican majority leader Randy Brock said the bill flies in the face of other non-adult prohibitions.

“There are some things we don’t allow 16 and 17 year olds to do,” Randy Brock said – serving in the military and drinking, for instance. “This is not the place for this kind of experimentation.”

Of the Democrats in the Senate, Richard Mazza (Colchester, Grand Isle) and Chittenden voted no. 

The Senate also gave final approval to H.165, universal school meals, and agreed with the House changes in S.17.

16 replies »

  1. If enacted, sixteen year old should be allowed to drink legally, drive without a learner’s permit ands basically have all the rights afforded to an adult.

  2. Whether anyone likes to think of it this way or not, holding government office is akin to holding a gun and being able to use it legally, albeit not directly, but at the end of the day lawmakers can only enforce the laws by force (funny how force is part of the word en-force).

    You just gave a 16 year old the ability to shoot their fellow citizens.

    I wouldn’t trust my dog with most 16 year olds, why would I want them making laws?

    Who are these people voting on this, and moreso who are the unintelligent Vermonters that elected them, because I sure didn’t.

  3. Why stop at 16 ? If they are old enough to make an X with a Crayola, and are old enough to make decisions that affect their ability to procreate by encouraging them to bastardize their genitalia, then they should be able to vote. Right ? While were at it let’s let them buy beer, cigarettes, pot, and guns . Oh and they should also be subject to a military draft.

  4. Becca White supports AND LIES about anything BAD for Vermont….and giggles while doing it. If you wanna see someone lie through their teeth, watch. Her first lie is calling it “AFFORDABLE” If only pants WOULD catch on fire. https://www.instagram.com/p/CrjMtPkrfGo/

    • Thanks dragonlady ! So Ms. White thinks that dealers, and importers will not pass on the cost of their credits ? I don’t think she is that stupid, therefore she must think we are. The people that elected this duplicitous piece of….. work should be real proud of the way she is playing them.

  5. Yes, 16-year-old children, with their immense wealth of general knowledge, vast life experience, and the obvious maturity to comprehend social-political issues should be holding public office, no doubt. Again, I consistently consult children when making important decisions. Interestingly enough, underage minors are also often extremely naive, credulous, and easily manipulated by those in positions of power & authority.

    Oh, and by the way, lil’ Becca White: With age, comes wisdom. Ever heard of that adage? Of course not – you’re too young to possess any. GROW UP, KID. Your personal ignorance is on full display, you ageist, discriminatory naïf.

    • I’m in total agreement. All 16 year old’s I know, and have known, believe the world revolves around them, even those who are the most mature! I was 16 decades ago and still remember my mother’s replies to some of my ridiculous plans. One of them was, If your friends drove off the bridge into the river would you too??

      I sincerely question Becca White’s maturity and stubborn blindness to the harm of S.5 that only runs in her imagination and to hell with the consequences.

  6. By the way, Democrat Senator Richard Mazza of Colchester is a decent man. An old-time Dem who is the epitome of a selfless public servant and who listens to and respects his constituents. Plus, he makes awesome potato salad at his market! Thanks, Dick.

  7. Glad I do not live in Brattleboro. Trying to find a place to move to without democrats, any ideas?

  8. @jamesvitolanese
    In convoluted way you might have touched upon something ….

    In the news of late we’re seeing an inordinate amount of young teens holding anti guns signs. Could this be the Left’s way of sticking a fork into Vermont’s hunting/gun culture?

    Would fishing be next because, you know, fish feel pain ….?

    Or imagine Vermont’s complexion if we had 4 or 5000 Greta Thunbergs pitching environmental laws starting at the town charter level – telling you that private dwellings are no longer legal, no longer can you drive anything other than a bicycle because public transportation has been mandated and independent/charter/religious schools are no longer allowed.

    Can you imagine them constructing LGBTQ+2 policies?
    All of this taking place through guidance via TicTok ….

  9. Most kids–16 year olds–lack a proper education, especially in civics, and their brains are still developing. This is another ploy to gain votes from the unsuspecting.

  10. What does it mean when the Vermont Legislature passes laws that violate our State Constitution? Who will uphold and enforce the Constitution as written? When all three branches of our State government are derelict of their duties, we have no government and we have no representation. Vermont is a failed State. Defective democracy: “When elected officials are no longer held to constitutional principles due to the deterioration of power held by the judiciary, the nation becomes an illiberal democracy in which the rule of law is damaged or flawed, and the constitutional norms have little or no binding impact on elected officials and their actions.”

    Constitution of the State of Vermont

    § 42
    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:
    You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.
    Every person who will attain the full age of eighteen years by the date of the general election 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 oath or affirmation set forth in this section, shall be entitled to vote in the primary election.