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How Brattleboro is prepping for 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on Town Meeting Day for the first time

Campaign signs arrayed in the grass outside of a building
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public File
This upcoming Town Meeting Day, 16- and 17-year-olds in Brattleboro will be able to vote for the first time on local issues and even run for positions on the select board.

Town Meeting Day is on March 5, less than two months away. And for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds in Brattleboro will be able to vote on local issues and even run for positions on the select board.

That's after Brattleboro residents voted to change their charter and lower the voting age to 16, creating the so-called category of "youth voters" comprised of 16- and 17-year-olds.

The change became official last year after the state Legislature overrode Gov. Phil Scott's veto.

Brattleboro Town Clerk Hilary Francis told Vermont Edition that as of Tuesday, only five youth voters are currently registered.

"That's it so far, and I think it's really going to come down to peers, teachers and parents encouraging those youth voters to come and register to vote," Francis said.

Brattleboro is the only municipality in Vermont to have lowered its voting age below 18, and Francis says they've been prepping for months. Multiple elections are happening on the same day, and Brattleboro residents 16 and older can vote on local Town Meeting Day issues. Anyone who will be 18 by the general election in November can vote in the presidential primary.

"And so we've really had to develop procedures for both absentee voting as well as on the day of to make sure that people who are eligible to vote in each election are getting only those ballots," Francis said.

While Brattleboro is the first Vermont municipality to let 16- and 17-year-olds vote on local issues, about a half dozen other cities and towns across the country have lowered the voting age to 16, too.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.