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Arlington17-year-olds now welcomed as full-fledged Arlington Democrats

17-year-olds now welcomed as full-fledged Arlington Democrats

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Allowing 17-year-olds to participate as active members of the committee – so long as they will turn 18 by the time of the next general election – brings the local party into alignment with state election policy, which allows 17-year-olds to register to vote (and to vote in state-run primaries) if they hit the 18-year-old mark by the next November general election. The proposal received no pushback at the monthly Democratic Committee meeting.

Another change adopted by the body: Elimination of the $25 annual membership fee.

The organization’s bylaws-review committee, chaired by parliamentarian Corey Barton, opted to put the largely uncontroversial proposals in front of the body in April, holding back other possible changes for coming months.

No one balked at that two-step procedure but there was, in the diplomatic language of party chair Steve Baker, “robust discussion” about what type of majority would be needed to pass any upcoming bylaws changes.


Current rules require support from two-thirds of those casting ballots to adopt bylaws changes. A proposal was made from the floor to change that to a simple majority.

After some occasionally testy back-and-forth, that proposal was voted down by an unofficial tally of 46 against to 20 in favor – roughly mirroring, percentage-wise, the vote on the issue that earlier was taken by the Democratic steering committee of local leaders.

Even though the end result wasn’t particularly close, such a split (both in the vote and the tempestuous discussion that preceded it) is rare within a political party whose meetings usually run with a brutal efficiency and lack of dissent akin to North Korean parliamentary gatherings. It led one observer to chuckle that he came to a Democratic Committee meeting only to find that an Arlington County Civic Federation meeting (where parliamentary-procedure folderols used to be legendary) had broken.

Though a little messy, “this is what democracy looks like,” said the party’s deputy chair, Mike Hemminger, after the dust had settled.
The party will next gather in early May; whether additional bylaws proposals will be ready by then remains an open question.

But before the matter comes to a floor vote, “we are going to address many of the things you feel passionate about,” Baker said to members.

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