Brattleboro voters will decide on Town Meeting Day if 16- and 17-year-olds should be able to vote in local elections. For the teenager who’s been working on the ballot question, there have been some lessons learned about how the slow-turning wheels of democracy move forward.
Rio Daims, 17, has been working on getting the youth vote question onto the ballot in Brattleboro for a few years.
She had all her papers in place back in November to get the question onto the general election ballot, but Daims said the town gave her the wrong information and she missed an important deadline.
“It was definitely frustrating at first,” Daims said. “And I was kind of frustrated with the town government because at first they didn’t know either ... about those requirements.”
But, like any good political operative, Daims regrouped and figured out a way to capitalize on her loss.
“This actually gave us more time to publicize it and actually get the public to know more about it. Because if it was voted on in November, it was such a new issue that I doubt very many people would know about it,” Daims said.
That brings us to lesson one: In a democracy, you have a chance to reinvent yourself.
Daims has been working hard to talk to people about the Town Meeting Day vote, and on a recent cold afternoon she was talking to people out in front of the Brattleboro Food Co-op.
She said there seems to be support for the ballot question, but she’s also heard from people who don’t think kids should be involved in politics.
So there’s lesson two: When people count you out in elections, sometimes you have to fight back.
“The most basic argument against it is definitely that 16-year-olds haven’t stood on their own two feet — they’re not involved, they’re not smart enough to know about issues,” Daims said. “But I’ve seen so many youth get involved with issues like this recently, whereas a lot of adults aren’t involved at all and don’t even know what they’re going to vote on ... and they don’t vote at all. So I think that a lot of the arguments against the youth vote can be also applied to adults.”
If the youth vote ballot question is approved on Town Meeting Day, it means 16- and 17-year-olds will also be allowed to serve on the town’s school boards and the at Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting.
Daims is currently taking classes at community college. She'll soon be a legal voter anyway, and there might be a time when she’s not even living in Brattleboro. But despite all that, Daims is pushing hard to get the article passed in the town.
And that’s lesson three: For a democracy to thrive, sometimes you have to lay yourself out on the line for what you consider to be a better future for everyone.
“We think it’s definitely a good way to start people young and get them involved in politics,” Daims said. “And there’s also statistics that show that youth voting promotes adults to vote out as well and so it just — it promotes voter turnout in all walks of life, I believe.”
Every registered voter in Brattleboro will get a chance to weigh in on the youth vote at the polls on Town Meeting Day.