Lily Charkey and Emilie Kornheiser

Lily Charkey, a senior at Brattleboro Union High School and intern for Rep. Emilie Kornheiser (right), visited the Statehouse last month in support of the Youth Vote.

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MONTPELIER — Lawmakers have started a process to override the governor’s veto on legislation to give younger Brattleboro voters the ability to participate in local elections.

On Friday, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 102 to 47 to override the veto. One-hundred votes were needed and now, the Senate will require 20 votes in favor.

“Youth are affected by local political issues as much as anyone,” Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D-Windham-2-1, said Friday in a speech from the floor. “They also work without limits on hours and pay taxes on their income, and can drive in most states. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds deserve the right to vote on issues that affect them. In paying income taxes, youth are contributing money to a system in which they have no voice.”

Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill on Feb. 28, the day before annual Town Meeting Day in Vermont, citing concerns about how the charter change would further contribute to a patchwork of age requirements in laws. As an example, he noted that the Legislature bumped the age for accountability for criminal offenses to 22.

Kornheiser said Brattleboro residents approved a charter change that would lower the voting age in a 908-408 vote in March 2019. The Youth Vote initiative came from Brattleboro Common Sense, a group focused on promoting democracy and other progressive issues.

“Specifically, the bill amends the Brattleboro charter to allow 16 and 17 year old youths (and early voting 15 year old youths if they will be 16 Election Day) to vote for candidates for Brattleboro’s Select Board and representatives in Brattleboro’s unique form of Town Meeting where three people represent sets of 180 voters at Town Meeting,” she said, referring to Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

The bill allows 16- and 17-year-olds to serve as Select Board members and RTM members. They wouldn’t be able to participate in school elections or serve on the School Board.

Originally, the vote in Brattleboro also applied to the now-disbanded Brattleboro Town School District and Brattleboro Union High School #6 Board in addition to town elections. An ordered merger of the school districts then resulted in the creation of the Windham Southeast School District.

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Kornheiser suggested that 16 is “a better age to establish a new habit than 18.”

“Research shows that voting is habitual,” she said. “A person who votes in the first election they are eligible for is likely to continue voting consistently while someone who doesn’t will take several years to pick up the habit.”

Kornheiser said lowering the voting age can drive demand for effective civics education since students learn best when they material is relevant to their lives.

“The Youth Vote has a ‘trickle up’ effect on civic participation,” she said. “Conversations about politics and local issues are brought to the dinner table. Parents and family members are engaged in civic life through the 16- and 17-year-olds in their household. If we want to retain our youth, we must create conditions of belonging and trust.”

In a statement, the Vermont House Republican Caucus decried the vote to override and expressed hope that the Senate would consider concerns about the legislation.

“Vermont Democrat lawmakers have sent a series of mixed signals when it comes to their trust in young Vermonters,” said House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy, R-Rutland-1. “As it pertains to certain local elections, Democrats want 16-year-olds to be able to vote. But, according to the framework Democrats have structured, those same 16-year-olds would have to wait two years before they could play the lottery or join the military, six years before they could purchase alcohol or tobacco, and seven years before they could be considered an adult for criminal proceedings. There is no consistency. Rather, there exists a patchwork of unclear and confusing contradictions.”

WCAX reported the Senate is expected to take up the veto override this week.

“We are working on whipping votes on the Senate side now,” Carolyn Wesley, chief of staff for Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, told the Reformer on Wednesday.