While Ethan Sonneborn begins his freshman year of high school this year, he will simultaneously be running for governor of Vermont. Only 14 years of age, Sonneborn found a legal loophole that allowed him to get his name on the ballot. As Sonneborn explains on his website, the Vermont state Constitution does not have a minimum age to run for the governorship. It merely requires that a candidate "shall have resided in this State four years next preceding the day of election."
Sonneborn is running on a progressive platform. Among other things, he's advocating for a worker's bill of rights and a higher minimum wage, a carbon emissions tax, and universal healthcare. He also refers to himself as a "proud backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All legislation." Sonneborn's ideas don't stop there. In a recent debate, Sonneborn supported taxing and regulating the state's recently legalized marijuana.
While the age laws in Vermont, or in this case, a lack thereof, have inadvertently allowed Sonneborn to run for the highest political office, they have also criminalized a wide range activities for this would-be governor. As Reason has found, disproportionate age laws would allow someone to hold political office in Vermont before they were trusted to operate a moving vehicle, gamble, or even hold an agricultural job.
Here are some of the age barriers that Sonneborn currently faces:
The age of sexual consent in Vermont is 16 while the age of legal consent is set at 18. With certain exceptions, a teen can get married as young as 16.
Though the age of consent is 16, a Vermont teen can still be convicted for sexting until the age of 18.
Stonneborn will be unable to receive his learner's permit until he's 15. At 16, he'll be able to drive himself around the state. He'll still need to wait an additional 6 months to enjoy full driving privileges.
Sonneborn will not be able to purchase a legal cigarette for another four years in Vermont. Vaping is similarly out of the question. Like cigarettes and cigars, the legal age for vaping is 18.
Should Stonneborn decide he wants to leave both high school and the political life behind for field work, he'll have to wait until he's 16 to do so during school hours. Thankfully, if he decides to switch paths tomorrow, he can obtain a labor certificate to allow him to work two years ahead of the age limit.
There are no age restrictions for doing agricultural work outside of school hours.
If Stonneborn decides to find other kinds of work while remaining in school, he will still be required to obtain an employment certificate until he turns 16.
Teenagers in Vermont are allowed to get abortions without first obtaining the consent of a parent, guardian, or court of law.
Stonneborn is barred from participating in the lottery until he turns 18. Charity bingo and pull tabs are also out of the question.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.