Present future: 16- and 17-year-olds in Vermont can vote in local elections.

Brattleboro, Vt. A Vermont town will let 16- and 17-year-olds vote in local elections next week, believing they provide promise. Those 18 by November can vote in the state's presidential primaries on Super Tuesday. That means that Brattleboro voters, population 7,500, might choose Democratic President Joe Biden, 81, and Republican front-runner Donald Trump, 77.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott twice rejected the municipal charter change’s legislative approval. The Democratic-controlled Legislature overrode the governor's veto last year, allowing more Brattleboro teens to vote and compete for the primary governing body and represent them at an annual town meeting where many local problems are determined.

Lawmakers did not allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve on the local school board, as town people approved in 2019.

Some Maryland municipalities have lowered the municipal voting age to 16. In January, Newark's city council allowed that age group to vote in school board races. Two California cities decreased the school board voting age to 16, but the changes have not taken effect. Silas Brubaker, a 17-year-old Brattleboro Union High School senior, will examine local contests on Tuesday before voting. His qualification: “I know what’s going on in the world.”

“I am not too young or naïve to know what is happening and what I want to happen,” Brubaker stated. “When those things conflict, it feels unfair and wrong for me to be unable to do anything officially. I can protest and speak my thoughts, but I couldn't do anything legally before, so that's exciting.”

Years ago, efforts began to decrease the voting age. Rio Daims was 16 when she worked on the 2018 youth vote campaign. She's 22 and studying political communication at college.

“It’s exciting, but I also just really, really hope that other excited teenagers are making the moves to get the word around,” she added. “Unless they’re told, they’re not going to assume this is a possibility.” Starting in 2013, Kurt Daims, director of Brattleboro Common Sense, directed the youth voting campaign. He doesn't think “it's a full victory” because young voters were excluded from the school board.

Senior Django Grace, who organized a high school voting push, said citizen participation and turnout fell during the pandemic. Engaging younger voters can only help. “Giving us the vote allows us to apply whatever we’re learning in class,” said Grace, an 18-year-old town meeting candidate. "Makes it relevant."

At least 37 youths have enrolled, according to the town clerk. Many registered on the Feb. 14 school voter campaign, which senior Eva Gould organized. “This is the future and these are the people who will vote and run in our elections,” Gould remarked. “Honestly, they know more than most people.”

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