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Op-Ed: High School Disenfranchisement?

The president of the Virginia Young Democrats says voters under 18 should not be excluded from party restructuring processes.

Gonzaldo Aida, president of the Virginia Young Democrats, says high school students and those under 18 should not be excluded from the party restructuring process.
Gonzaldo Aida, president of the Virginia Young Democrats, says high school students and those under 18 should not be excluded from the party restructuring process.
Written by Gonzaldo Aida, president of the Virginia Young Democrats

In the coming days, the Fairfax Democratic Committee will undergo the biannual re-structuring that all Democratic clubs in the Commonwealth undergo. 

However, the issue is, a huge number of Democrats in Fairfax could potentially be excluded from the process.

For reasons unknown, some decision makers have issued opinions that would exclude high school students under 18 for the re-structuring, which is handled through a series of local caucuses.

While many high school students are not old enough to vote, they still substantially contribute to the goals of the Democratic Committee—electing Democrats, and helping to inform the public about Democrats and their platform. 

I am a long-term veteran of the campaign trail, and many of my super-volunteers have been high school students. They have more free time and because they cannot directly vote, feel a need to ensure their voice is heard.

Additionally, high school students have an increased incentive to be politically active—they have the longest future ahead of them in Fairfax County, Virginia and America.  

The Virginia Young Democrats have established chapters at four Fairfax high schools, and contacts at 10 more, to hopefully establish more chapters in the coming months.

Democrats in Fairfax should demand that the re-structuring process allow for high school students and other non-voters who are good Democrats to participate in the organization. We hope members of the committee will demand a change to the bylaws that will prohibit this discrimination in the future!

Gonzaldo Aida


TELL US - What do you think of Mr. Aida's position? Tell us in the comments below.

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Andrew Whitley December 09, 2013 at 01:35 PM
Bravo! As somebody who got involved in a county committee before I was eligible to actually vote, I think it crucial to let those high school aged students play an active role on the committee. The Democratic Party isn't exclusive and should welcome younger people who want to contribute to our Party's causes.
Todd Smyth December 09, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Good lord, I think there was only one form collected and possibly one other, that might have been turned in, that this rule would have affected? The only activity that is currently prevented is voting on party officials during the reorganization and it looks like that was an unintended consequence of restricting our higher office primaries/caucuses to Democrats only and most agree we should change that rule. Everything else is open to all. And where is the cut off age? Can we have 3 year olds voting on our officers? Wouldn't that be adorable?
Paul Jackson December 10, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Mr. Smyth, I respect what you say, but the problem with this situation is that the activity to which you refer, election of party officers, is NOT restricted to registered voters anywhere in the FCDC's documents. My dad is an attorney and he looked at those bylaws and agrees with me. Perhaps there should be an age limitation written into the FCDC bylaws in the future. The problem with the current situation is that no such limit currently exists. It is apparent that the current FCDC leadership has come up with some wild, unsupportable interpretation of the rules specifically to exclude young people from the process for political reasons. That is very unfortunate.
Marc Greidinger December 15, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Dear Mr. Jackson, Your information about what happened and why it happened is inaccurate. The call FCDC relied on was made by FCDC's parlamentarian and was supported, including by area leadership of the State party. The issue affects only two individuals and was not made for political reasons. The problem is one of interpreting FCDC's governing documents. Members of leadership, including our General Counsel and others who are strong supporters of our current Chair disagreed with the Parlamentarian's call, but this officer is usually entitled to deference in their interpretations of such documents in organizations like this. If you want an express age limitation, and want it lower than voting age, many FCDC members including myself would likely support that, and I encourage you to work towards it.
Paul Jackson December 20, 2013 at 06:56 PM
I heard all of this. The fact that your Chair ignored the General Counsel's advice and hid behind a Parliamentarian's ruling makes it pretty clear this was political. The chief attorney is the one who should make a call like that, not a Parliamentarian.
Marc Greidinger December 20, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Paul: After practicing law for 20+ years, you start to recognize ambiguities in law and life. FCDC's General Counsel is my co-counsel in FCDC's litigation to liberalize some of Virginia's restrictive election laws. He is one of our chair's strongest supporters, and until recently was dual hatted as both parliamentarian and general counsel, but relinquished the parliamentarian role after being criticized for serving both roles at once by some of the people campaigning against the current Chair. He is much more involved with the internal politics of the committee than our parliamentarian. I have faith in his judgment in these matters. He, and you, may be correct in his opinion about how to interpret the state party plan. On the other hand, our parliamentarian is a man of rather unquestionable integrity, having served I believe as the parliamentarian of the Texas state legislature. He is at least as qualified to make this decision as the General Counsel, and is relatively un-involved with internal FCDC politics. He is following the lead of the state party in its interpretation of the party plan. The state party is not at all subject to "political" manipulation by our Chair. The Chair has been very supportive of giving young people a greater role in the Committee for the last two years. He has precious little to gain from this, and I believe he has gone the extra mile to try to be fair. I kind of wonder whether your father the lawyer read the party plan as well as the FCDC bylaws because if he did, he might have recognized the ambiguity here. From my perspective, what you are saying does not make much sense. Since you are the one making the accusations about this being "political," perhaps you can provide some affirmative proof for your contentions? I assume by "political" that you imply that our current chair did this in order to increase his chances of being reelected. I really doubt that is the case. Did you assume that it was a "political" decision solely because your father the disagreed with the parliamentarian's decision on the law? Or did someone from the group of folks who want a different Chair suggest to you that the current Chair manipulated the situation to improve his chances of reelection? If so, I would start to wonder who really is doing the manipulation here.

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