Brattleboro, a small Vermont town, is in the spotlight as the first American community to grant voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in local elections. Even more shocking, these adolescents can now hold the highest elected offices in the municipality. While supporters of the measure argue it will invigorate democracy and deepen civic engagement, there are strong objections concerning the potential compromise of election security and dilution of the voting process.
Vermont’s Democrat-controlled state legislature was directly involved in this controversial move, overriding a veto of the town’s decision from Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Emilie Kornheiser, a Democratic state representative, extolled the virtues of the youth vote, claiming it essential to keep younger citizens involved in the community. She said, “Vermont is an aging state and we’re a state that really prides ourselves on democracy and participation.”
Adults are supposed to be the ones voting for a reason https://t.co/5LY5XMvMA1
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 28, 2023
Kornheiser’s sentiment was echoed by Kurt Daims, director of Brattleboro Common Sense, who suggested that the change could deter young people from leaving the town.
However, Gov. Scott remains unimpressed. He vetoed the proposed change, highlighting the potential of worsening inconsistencies within Vermont law concerning the legal age of adulthood. “As I said last year, I believe it is important to encourage young Vermonters to have an interest in issues affecting their schools, their communities, their state, and their country,” Scott wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “However, I do not support lowering the voting age in Brattleboro, nor lowering the age to run for Town office and sign contracts on behalf of taxpayers,” he added.
Indeed, Scott’s objections mustn’t be disregarded. Voting isn’t just about participation; it is about being informed, understanding the implications of one’s choices, and making decisions that impact the community. Is it reasonable to entrust these responsibilities to 16- and 17-year-olds, given the scientific consensus on brain development and common sense concepts of maturity?
Further, concerns about election security mustn’t be ignored. Going against the grain of many in his party, Scott signed a bill requiring mail-in ballots for all registered voters in the state. In a climate where other states, particularly with Republican control, are tightening regulations around mail-in voting, citing security issues, Vermont’s loosening of standards presents a stark contrast.
Amid debates about voting rights, it’s critical to remember that secure elections are the bedrock of democracy. Any actions that might erode trust in this process are not merely local issues; they ripple outwards, affecting perception and confidence in elections nationwide.
Does youth empowerment come at the cost of the sanctity and security of the voting process? It remains to be seen how these changes will play out in practice. However, one thing is clear: this move has sparked a fiery debate about the balance between accessibility and security in our electoral system.