A lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Northern Division is alleging that a county in the state has an “improper” election scheme that violates the Fourteenth and First amendments to the Constitution.
“Howard County’s School Board’s election process is something out of the movie ‘Election’ starring Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick rather than a real government election,” Public Interest Legal Foundation President J. Christian Adams said. “Children in Howard County are given more political power over education policy than even voting adults,” Adams added.
Howard County’s Board of Education, comprised of eight members, currently includes one “student member.” This minor is elected by his or her peers between grades six through 11 at district public schools. This student election process is run by the school board and teachers—who nominate the student to run for office in the first place.
PILF filed on behalf of a woman named Lisa Kim and her son, who is unable to cast a vote because he attends a religious institution. The other plaintiff is William Holland, a parent of two students in Howard County who wishes to be able to vote on the eighth spot on the Board of Education. The lawsuit states in part:
Defendant Howard County Board of Education (‘Board’) is operating a system of election and governance that violates the Fourteenth and First Amendment by allowing children only attending public schools, but not religious schools, to vote for public officials; allocating political power improperly to minors; and diluting and causing a malapportionment of political power.
The suit alleges that the student-member process of only allowing minors to run violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This is because adults are not given an equal opportunity to have a say in the election of this individual to represent the county. The suit also employs the Equal Protection Clause to allege that teachers who are able to wield power on which students will be selected via the process is unfair.
“They’ve created a preferred class of voting for the students over the adults,” PILF spokeswoman Lauren Bowman told The Federalist. “The teachers are in control of the process and the nominations, and even the elections. We don’t even know how they are really counting all the votes.”
Secondly, PILF is claiming that the current process violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause because it denies students at religious schools the ability to cast a vote in the election. Those who are homeschooled or at private institutions are also not included. The Free Exercise Clause states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The filing comes weeks after the House struck down a proposed measure by Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., to lower the age to vote in federal elections to 16 years old. The failed measure was offered as an amendment to the “For The People Act,” also known as H.R. 1.
H.R. 1 would make it more likely for minors to be illegally registered to vote by a variety of vote-expansion changes. See here, here, and here for coverage by The Federalist of this radical federal elections bill.
“The left’s next move is to infantilize voting,” said Bowman. “They want to lower the voting age to 16 and now in Maryland, they have sixth-graders voting. We have a voting age for a reason.”
Bowman provided an example of how having a minor participate in critical government decisions can have major repercussions on society.
“The board voted for re-opening [schools] and the eighth vote that made it tied, which caused the school not to reopen, was a student,” the spokeswoman noted.