Teen vote headed to ballot?

Photo provided by Rio DaimsRio Daims, right, meets with Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman about her effort to give 16- and 17-year-old Brattleboro residents the right to vote on issues affecting the town.

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BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro is the only town in Vermont to utilize the Representative Town Meeting format for its annual town meeting, but each year the town struggles to fill the 138 seats available, usually coming up 15 or 20 people short.

One local teen, Rio Daims, thinks she has the solution, but she needs the adults to sign onto her initiative, literally.

"The Youth Vote Amendment will allow youth 16 and 17 to serve as representatives at Town Meeting and to vote on local issues," said Daims.

The process requires an amendment added to the Town Charter, which needs to be approved by the state Legislature. To get the ball rolling though, Daims needs the signatures of 400 registered voters who agree the question should be on the town ballot in November.

The youth vote amendment has been on the ballot before, in 2015, but it garnered only 49 percent approval, said Daims, falling short of the majority needed to send it to the Legislature.

Daims, the youth vote coordinator for Brattleboro Common Sense, would also like 16- and 17-year-olds to be able to vote on school issues, but that will require petitions and approval in all five towns in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. She is looking for volunteers to take on collecting signatures in the towns of Vernon, Putney, Guilford and Dummerston.

Daims, who just finished her sophomore year at Brattleboro Union High School, told the Reformer she has been going door to door collecting signatures and plans to speak at a democracy forum sometime in August.

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"We deserve to have a voice in local government," she said. "We are very active in our towns. We drive, we have jobs and pay taxes. We should be able to vote."

Lawrin Crispe said in his official position as Town Moderator that he has no opinion on the youth vote amendment.

"My duty as a moderator is to help citizens implement whatever their petitions or motions might be," he said.

However, when pressed, Crispe said personally, he believes it's a good thing to get kids involved in the community.

"We need to stimulate more interest in the democratic process in this community. If we can do that with the involvement of high school students, I'm all for it. It's important for the kids to get involved, because they will remain involved as adults."

For more information, visit http://brattleborocommonsense.org/youth-vote, or contact Daims at 802-275-8306 or riodaims@brattleborocommonsense.org.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.