Sen. Joe Benning: Why I voted against letting 16- and 17-year-olds vote in municipal elections

This commentary is by Sen. Joe Benning, who represents the Caledonia-Orange District in the Vermont Senate. He is also a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Vermont.

Yesterday, Feb. 11, I sat on the Senate floor (virtually, of course) and listened to a debate over a proposed charter change for the town of Brattleboro. My friend and colleague, Sen. Jeanette White, presented the bill. Its genesis began with a group of students in Brattleboro, rightly concerned about current events. She advised us the bill had two components. First, it would grant to 16- and 17 year-olds the right to vote on town issues. Secondly, it would enable folks that age to become select board members and town officials. In support of the bill, some of my Senate colleagues extolled the virtues of empowering youth and giving them incentive to engage in political discourse.

state of Vermont

State Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia

In a flash my mind shot back to the early 1970s with memories of when I, at exactly the same age, was in high school. I, too, was deeply engaged in political discourse. Who couldn’t be? With the Vietnam War raging I was mere months away from being drafted. It was outrageous, we loudly protested, that we could be forced at 18 to fight and die in Vietnam, but we couldn’t vote for or against those sending us there. So we conducted sit-ins, sang songs and carried signs, mostly saying “hooray for our side.” (We even did it in a Catholic school!) And we won. We established the right to vote for, or against, those making the decisions that could send us off to war.

The concept of protesting to obtain rights is certainly not a new thing, even in this country. British citizens who had occupied the original 13 colonies and surrounding territories like the New Hampshire Grants (soon to be Vermont) became very angry when members of Parliament began exacting taxes and fees from the Americas. American subjects were taxed, but none were permitted to hold a seat in Parliament. Their refrain, which galvanized a people into the American Revolution, was: “No taxation without representation!”

With all this swirling in my head, I could understand the rationale sweeping my Senate colleagues into the novelty of supporting this bill. I say “novelty” because I don’t think it has ever been done before. But I suddenly noticed two glitches that blew up any chance I could join in support. The first was what distinguished this measure from the protesters’ causes in 1773 and 1973. The Brattleboro teenagers under 18 who’d become selectboard members were going to be given authority to tax, but they had no responsibility to pay those taxes. It was, in a sense, complete reversal of the concept of “no taxation without representation.” Authority without responsibility is bad precedent.

The second glitch was elimination of a line of demarcation recognizing the legal rights and, more importantly, the legal obligations of those who’ve reached 18. By eliminating that line, there would no longer be justification for refusing the next charter change proposal seeking voting rights for those 13 through 15, or younger. Do they not possess the same desire for political discourse that 16- and 17 year-olds do? My own first recollection of debates around the dinner table began with the appearance of a British band called “The Beatles.” Heady times! I was in kindergarten.

Oddly enough, we’re pursuing this path at the very same time we are seeking to “raise the age” of those subject to adult criminal penalties, after recognizing the human brain doesn’t reach full development before the mid 20s.

So I voted against the bill. I simply cannot support granting authority to those who have no responsibility, especially when that authority requires others to do their bidding. Sorry Brattleboro students, I hope you’ll nevertheless stay engaged.

Images courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore and state of Vermont
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17 thoughts on “Sen. Joe Benning: Why I voted against letting 16- and 17-year-olds vote in municipal elections

  1. Tho I have had harsh words for your actions…they were substantive and focused on a particular decision or commentary submission.

    Credit where due…a belated thank you Senator 😀

    A bit of advice for those demanding to be answered personally…kindly stop hurling harsh directives at GOP members for drill – it’s generally a nonstarter and adds nothing but vitriol to the discourse – and ya don’t deserve to be recognized imo.

    To bitter loser Neil Johnson – may I suggest ya do something constructive rather than hurl non-stop insults and broad-brush generalized hate-filled rants under the guise of fave-strawman Rinos.

    And would add that most of your targets Deb Billado, Bob Frenier, Shannara Johnson, Paul Dame are Patriots not Rinos. And may I kindly suggest you grow up and finally get a life sir

  2. The brains of 18 year olds and younger make fuzzy decisions. Its why armies around the world want 18 year olds in uniform. They do as told, without thinking or questioning when bullets are flying. And this fact is why the liberals want them voting.

    • At eight years old, the parents have instilled their values. By twelve the schools have indoctrinated them and undermined this. By sixteen it’s time for them to vote????? It won’t be until thirty or forty years later (too late) that they realize how they’ve been duped. A lot of we baby boomers are just realizing that now. Is it too late? I hope not.

  3. In 1971 the Socialists Democrats were able to get the right to vote for 18-year olds passed in a constitutional amendment. It is a scientific fact that the adult brain has not been fully formed on average until the mid-twenties. The last area of the brain to fully form is the frontal cortex. This is the section of the brain involved in assessing risk/reward scenarios, problem solving, aggressiveness, impulse control, behavior, emotions, social control etc. Basically, it allows us to think things thru and determine how to use information located elsewhere in the brain.
    We can all recall risky dumb things we did as a kid and think how did I ever survive that! I hold myself forth as exhibit “A”. Here in lies the problem with children voting. Who in their right mind would turn over control of the family’s financial decisions to their 18-year-old child? We can all only imagine how that would turn out! Yet we are supposed to be at ease with children determining the future course of our nation. Whatever could go wrong?
    In truth what has happened is the Socialist Democrats have by design through the education system which they fully control, are in fact the primary parent of your child. The genetic parents, in today’s society, are merely sperm and egg donors for the State. The State will instill its values and social concepts in the child and not those of the genetic parents. This manifests it’s self in the fact that so many of today’s children are disparaging and scornful of their genetic parent’s views.
    Hey kid! How would like some candy? How would you like legalized drugs? How would you like someone else to pay for your college education? You know what to do kid, you vote for us, right?

    The die has already been cast.

  4. Eat a hog, Joe. But I’m sure you do that often, maybe with Phil “Jellyfish Spine” Scott at parties. And I’m not talking about pork shoulder.

    You and your useless friends in the legislature are irrelevant. Have been for some time. Go straight to hell.

  5. Throwing out some “common sense”while he sells out our country. Don’t be fooled.

    Read what he says on Digger!

    The party is split, and they love it that way, because they take all power from those who love America. We have two parties that love Brandon, gee thanks.

    • The Poker is hardly a source for accurate information. They are extremely biased, predjudiced, write their stories to confirm their biases, and do NOT present both sides of a story. They often craft quotes to leave out context, and even the most important content of a story, especially if it contradicts their fascist dictated biases, or narratives.
      I ONLY read them to see what narrative is being pushed. I only trust the obituaries – that someone has died – and even those do not reflect deaths in Vermont (gotta’ pay to play, or even die in Vermont).
      Just because they say they are in pursuit of truth, they could not be further away from it, and they have no interest in it whatsoever.

      When a man puts in print his OWN words, he can be held accountable for them.
      Sen. Benning’s courage in doing so – content aside – is to be commended. VERY few politicians are willing to put down in writing what they are fighting for or believe.
      When they do, it gives us, their constituents, more traction on whether or not we want to support them.

      Using a biased news story as a reference for whether or not to do so just feeding the fascists shaky mis- and disinformation campaigns.

      Politics are RESPONSIVE, not proactive. Proaction comes from the people.
      A politician does not lead. He represents, if he has integrity.
      Whether or not a politician represents us comes down to his voting record. That’s it.
      Why, when a politician pens an opinion, its important to take note.
      Its on the record, in their own words.

      • Very familiar with Digger and their interviews, too funny how biased they truly are. And if you are really onto something they will completely ban you. That’s what happened to us when we started a new political party, we are familiar.

        I’ve conversed with Sen Benning over the internet several times. He’s not afraid to speak that’s for sure.

        He’s running for a higher office. He’ll be on internet much more, as he should. I find his explanation on why he didn’t ask for a judges opinion with regard to Ms. Gray meeting the residency requirements, very weak to put it mildly.

        Watch what they do, everyone…..that’s the true test.

        Notice how Vermont takes many rights and privileges away from adults, who are 18 years old. You have to be 21 to drink is one example. To strain a fry vat at McDonalds…..but we’ll send you off to war at 18.

        We should have one age, I’d suggest 20, whereby you are an adult with all rights and privileges. Historically speaking that seems to be the consensus.

        But if we said 18, give them everything.

        • Also Neil, 18 today ain’t like it used to be…
          I mean they need warnings on coffee cups today.. sheesh.
          We all openly see and say that America has been very dumbed down, but then they don’t want to change those things that work for them right?

          Funny where we are dumbed down and where we are not eh?

  6. Why would he not mention the fact that it’s not allowed per the Vermont Constitution?

    “QUALIFICATIONS OF FREEMEN AND FREEWOMEN
    § 42. [VOTER’S QUALIFICATIONS AND OATH]
    Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state:

    You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.

    Every person who will attain the full age of eighteen years by the date of the general election who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the oath or affirmation set forth in this section, shall be entitled to vote in the primary election.”

    One would think that would be the primary reason for not voting for it.

    • Because he believes we are a democracy and not a republic.

      There is a great struggle going on right now. Are you for loving your neighbor, giving them all medicine and treatment they need for cOvid? To save their lives? Or are you for big Pharma, for the new world order, one government, and I speak not of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Are you for terrifying your citizens, getting them to fight and hate one another, rather than turning the other cheek? Are you for forgiveness? The great foundation and underpinning of this nation was not the constitution, but the willingness of our people to sub,it themselves to God and his word, only then could our constitution be of any service.

      One of the most valuable lessons in the bible, which is lost on many on VERMONT is its ability to give those whose hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit the ability to discern leaders. This is in fact why it is infact why it is banned in so many tyrannical countries and why our population is not able to discern some things others so plainly see before them.

      Look at our fields in VERMONT.

      Who is wealthy? Who is connected.
      We speak of and spend on “affordable housing”, yet can you find an affordable home?
      We speak of helping the poor? What population gets larger and struggles more.
      We speak of great days, but why do our youth commit suicide and turn to drugs?

      We are leading not for the moment, this election before us, but for our children not yet born? Will they know this time as a time of freedom? Or the time where mask wearing became the social norm? Where medical tyranny started? Where our state became the first colony of the United Nations? Was VERMONT the first state in the new socialist states of America? Where both parties came together in the name of Marxism?

      The path is ours to chose. Mr. Benning, mr. Dame and our Gov Scott have chosen their course and path. What will we as citizens choose? Masks forever?

      Do not be fooled.

      • What a load of crap…look in the mirror mister man..if you loved your neighbor ya wouldn’t be attacking Republicans whilst only giving an occasional honorable mention to your fellow DemocratMarxists and mythical “American Loving Democrats” who are the real enemy and destroying our nation, state and neighborhoods limb by limb.

        JC saved his greatest condemnation for bat-blind religious hypocrites such as yourself

  7. While I appreciate Sen. Benning’s common-sense perspective, that he voted against letting 16- and 17-year-old kids vote, I recognize a diversion when I see one. So, as long as Sen. Benning feels the urge to be forthcoming, I’ll ask him again:

    With regard to the recent report on Vermont Daily Chronicle concerning bill S265 (an act relating to expanding criminal threatening to include threats to third persons), did the senator say to Guy Page that “… he is comfortable moving towards the heightened standard of protection given threatened federal judges and other federal officials”?

    Senator Benning has taken some heat for his position in this regard and later opined that he voted against S265. But he never addressed the claim that he said he approves of a heightened standard of protection given threatened federal judges and other federal officials.

    Senator, what say you?

  8. Thanks, Joe this is just another liberal boondoggle trying to rope in more votes
    for their nonsense, wake up people,now they want your children to be on there
    agenda………….. pretty pathetic !!

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