Senate skips Brattleboro teen voting veto

More senators reportedly opposed to 16-17 year old voting

By Guy Page

The Vermont Senate – today, at least – appears to lack the votes needed to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the House bill allowing 16-17 year olds the right to vote and hold municipal office in Brattleboro.

The proposed veto of H. 361, “An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the Town of Brattleboro,” is on today’s Senate calendar. However, during today’s Senate session at 9:50 this morning, presiding officer Lt. Molly Gray skipped over H361. “I believe we will pass over H361,” she said. 

The House overrode Gov. Scott’s veto 102-47 on March 11. However, Senate Republicans say resistance to the bill has been growing, with more Democrats expressing reservations about extending the vote to teenagers. 

Gov. Scott has noted the bill would give teenagers the right to vote in municipal elections and hold local office, at the same time that the Legislature has failed to address problems associated with its desire to raise the age of adult accountability for crimes.

The nine senators voting no when the bill passed the Senate included all seven Republicans and two Democrats: Sens. Alice Nitka (Windsor) and Mark MacDonald (Orange). It is not clear which Democrats or Progressives have – apparently – crossed over in the ‘no’ category for the veto vote. 

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 the 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.

6 replies »

  1. Another poor example of politicians and government having inconsistency.
    So this age group gets the right to vote and be on community boards but they cant purchase tobacco, alcohol, cant drive at night without an adult, cant join the arm forces.
    When you ask the politicians about the latter, they say well they are not mature enough to know better.

    There are other solutions if you want to engage the youth into government participation and understanding; how about mandatory civic class to graduate high school, they can also participate in a smaller approach via high school student government and volunteer in government.

    Let end with my cynical thought, so if these young people get the power (should not take lightly) who do you think they are going to vote for? I am independent btw

  2. If they (16-17 yo) are truly interested in government, they have the right to sit in on town meetings and even go to Montpelier to see it in action. Anybody from Brattleboro care to answer this question as to how many young men and women show up for the town meetings and selectboard meetings in town?

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