This November, the Baltimore electorate will have a choice most other jurisdictions never get during a municipal election – though that may be because they already have such in place? The Baltimore City General Election ballot will offer the voters the opportunity to allow those younger candidates eighteen, nineteen and twenty years of age, the opportunity to run their own political campaigns – and possibly get elected as council representatives.
Question B, which would lower the age requirement for those seeking local elected office in Baltimore from 21 to 18 years of age, would bring the City in line with the majority of the state’s local jurisdictions; offering the chance for the younger generation to become more involved and engaged in the electoral process. The City Charter amendment, which passed through the Baltimore City Council chambers unanimously earlier this year, was spearheaded by the growing non-partisan political action group IMPAC; whose members authored the bill and eventually lobbied hard enough to get it placed on this year’s ballot. “We are here today in hopes of getting our ‘candidate’ known by the electorate, and to convince those voters to ‘Vote Green for 18’; which is the candidate, and generation, we are supporting in this case,” said the group’s chairman and author of the Charter Amendment bill Hassan Giordano, at a press conference held on the fourth floor of City Hall to launch the educational campaign for the ballot question.
The Lower the Age campaign, which mimics the strong advocacy America witnessed in the late 1960’s which eventually led to the passage and ratification of the 26thAmendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1971, which lowered the voting age requirement to eighteen; is set to begin airing PSA’s and newly popular e-commercials which broadcast throughout the web, on page channels such as YouTube and Facebook. “We have two different slogans or mottos, one being the major campaign push of ‘Vote Green for 18’ which makes the ask of voting in favor (or green) for the eighteen year old voters; as well as ‘Vote for Me with Question B’ which is the mantra used by the generation of advocates who we are doing all this for,” said Giordano. And that sentiment was felt yesterday as 20-year old Algebra Project organizer Nicole Cheatom echoed the sentiments expressed by Giordano and the group IMPAC, as she addressed the reasoning behind such a common sense law being passed. “Political apathy amongst my generation is based on the double standard talk we hear so often by our elders who like to point fingers for a lack of participation, when they themselves are the ones who consistently sit at home and don’t vote,” said Cheatom. “All we ask is that when you go to the polls on November 8ththat you Vote for Me with Question B.”
Also attending the press conference, and in full support of the measure, was the state’s youngest elected official Mr. Edward Burroughs; who was elected to serve as the Board of Education representative for the 8thdistrict in Prince George’s County in last year’s 2010 election, at the tender age of eighteen. “If they are old enough to fight for their country and possibly die defending America’s freedoms, then certainly they are old enough to run their own campaigns,” said Burroughs, who is the prototypical model in which this bill reflects as to why people should give these young and articulate, tax paying citizens a chance at public service. “Unfortunately, I was subjected to that same youth rhetoric by my 69-year old opponent in last year’s race, yet based on perseverance, hard work and God’s will, the people of that district felt as though I was able and ready to serve their interests on the school board, despite my age; and I wake up every day thankful for that opportunity and diligent in my efforts to prove them right in their choice of a leader!”
There was past opposition before when this bill went to referendum in 2004 says bill sponsor Robert ‘Bobby’ Curran, however that was during a City General Election that had the highest turnout in Baltimore history based on it being in line with the ’04 Presidential Election. “Most folks who understand the premise of this bill will support it wholeheartedly once you explain to them the fact that these young men and women are allowed to go to war and fight to defend the freedoms of our country, and possibly die during that admirable service; and they are old enough, and wise enough, to be able to register to vote for me and my colleagues, therefore they should also be afforded the same rights as we have in formulating their own political campaigns for elective office,” said Curran, who came into office as a part of a long and rich political family dynasty and who now represents the city’s Northeast third council district, after more than a decade of public service to the citizens of Baltimore. “We’re certainly not going to be here forever; therefore we need to allow these young folks to get involved early on, in order to have them trained and ready to hit the ground running once they are elected to office?”
Such sentiment was echoed throughout the press conference through the many supporters and their commentary, as even older civil rights leaders such as Marvin ‘Doc’ Cheatham, the past President of the local NAACP and current President of the National Action Network-Baltimore Branch supports such an effort. “I remember I was turning 21 in 1971 when the 26thAmendment was being ratified and I could not wait to get out there and vote; thus I think if we pass such a law more of our young folk will get involved with the political process at an earlier age.” Also present was the current President of the local branch of the NAACP Mrs. Tessa Hill-Aston who echoed her support and promised that the civil rights group “would do everything it could to help educate and motivate the electorate to the polls on November 8thand to support this great effort!” Other groups in support were excited about the possibility of having something on the fall ballot that could potentially energize the younger generation to the polls to ensure Baltimore does not witness a consecutive election with historic low turnout. “This should certainly exclude the excuses from the mindset of the younger generation and I look forward to seeing this bill not only pass, but being involved in a young person’s campaign in 2015 here in the City of Baltimore,” said SCLC local chapter President Cortly ‘C.D.’ Witherspoon, who was an original member of this bill’s inception back in 2003-04, as a young council hopeful, yet who now turns 30 in December.
“Baltimore City needs the positive, productive and innovate service of young elected officials who communicate effectively to diverse constituents and are able to utilize social media to spread their message to creative, like-minded leaders who believe in the power of the people,” said attorney Alison Velez-Lane, who is the founder of the Campaign Group which instituted the Vote BIG Baltimore campaign during this year’s Baltimore City Mayoral Elections. “The future is now Baltimore, and we need to ‘Vote Green’ for an infusion, and inclusion, of new leaders with new ideas for a new resurgence of our City.” Joined by elected leaders such as Council members William ‘Bill’ Cole, Carl Stokes, Mary Pat Clarke, Bill Henry, James ‘Jim’ Kraft, and being led by their Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, the Primary election winners who are headed into the General Election all lent their support to the measure; as did first time Democratic nominee Brandon Scott, who heads into the General Election looking to take the seat of longtime 2ndDistrict Councilman Nicholas D’Adamo, who is retiring after decades of public service. “I just hope each of these individuals put the ballot question, and their support of it, on their Election Day ballot literature; therefore the voters who support them will also support this measure as well,” said Independent Mayoral candidate Catalina Byrd, who is a leading member of the Independent Movement Political Action Committee (IMPAC) and plans to have her support of the measure on her literature, as she covers the City hoping to defeat Democratic Mayoral nominee Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in the fall, through a very well organized write-in campaign.
For more information on the Lower the Age Campaign, to ‘VOTE Green for 18’, be sure to contact the IMPAC offices at: #443.473.6401 or email them at: [email protected] Also, to browse the website dedicated to highlighting the movement and campaign activities dedicated to this bill’s passage, you can go to: http://www.valuemyvote2011.com. You can request a lawn sign, bumper sticker or volunteer to work at the polls on Election Day passing out literature; OR you can buy a T-Shirt, Hat, Sweatshirt, Pen and more campaign memorabilia by contacting us or coming soon on-line! You can DONATE much needed $$ to the campaign on-line at the ValueMyVote2011 website NOW, as we need Green to educate others to VOTE Green, so pitch in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 OR $1,000 or more to help out OR volunteer your efforts!
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