According to their philosophy, "if one can register to vote at 18 and have to choose between the elder choices given; if you can enlist in the Armed Services at 18 and defend your country and possibly die for such defense; then you should certainly be able to run your own campaign and put forth your articulated vision for elected office. Whether that be for a local City Council seat, or even a position in Annapolis as either a Delegate or Senator." And as they may soon get their wish, at least on the local scene by the end of the year, they may have to piece-meal the State legislation together in order to see their eventual goal become a reality; one legislative session at a time.
IMPAC, the Independent Movement Political Action Committee, formed in Baltimore, Maryland to serve as a conduit for those usually locked out of the system, has concentrated its energies not only on influencing upcoming elections but also through a very powerful voice in the halls of justice through social legislation. "We cannot only be victorious during an electoral process, for the candidates only run for a few months, yet they govern for four or six years, dependent on the position you are elected to serve," says current IMPAC Chairman Hassan Giordano. "This bill makes sense and has been a passion of mine since 2003 and we are still fighting for the change, both in Baltimore and in Annapolis. You gotta realize that in this political process of legilsative priorities, one must be studious and patient, for the end goal of any real game changing legislation such as this, certainly will take time, energy, man hours and a little political capital."
The long-time political activist, lobbyist and journalist has seen that long-term fight pay off in 2007 when his continuous battle for former felons obtaining their voting rights in Maryland became a reality with the passing and signing of the Voter Registration Protection Act. This bill, which was written by Giordano and lobbied by Justice Maryland, the Maryland Voting Rights Restoration Coalition (MVRRC), Alexander and Cleaver along with Eric Bryant on behalf Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver, LLC, saw the bills sponsors Delegate Justin Ross and Senator Gwendolyn Britt push through something that had been stalled since the first watered down bill of 2002. The first bill, originally introduced by Delegate Salima Siler Marriott and Senator Delores Kelley saw the glass as half-full piece of legislation get through getting them halfway to what they really wanted. Then it took another five years to get what they really wanted, which the VRPA of 2007 provided by allowing anyone convicted of a felony, no matter how many and depsite the severity of the charge(s), as long as they were no longer on Parole and Probation, serving time and had completed all their court-ordered requirements, the opportunity to regain their voting rights.
Now this current bill, lowering the age, must prepare for a similar fight says Mr. Giordano as this piece of legislation is a Constitutional Amendment, meaning that it must first pass both chambers - House and Senate - by a 2/3 majority and then pass by a simple 50.1% majority by the people at the polls. "The people should be allowed to have their say, despite the feelings of any of these legislators," continued a passionate Giordano. However this bill actually did not pass by the people in 2004 when Hassan had the local Baltimore City bill introduced by then Councilman Melvin Stukes and current Councilman Robert 'Bobby' Curran, who is the sponsor of the 2011 legislation pending in the Baltimore City Council now for approval. "We had these fine gentlemen introduce it for us then, yet with the percular way the General Election fell 14-months after the 2003 Primary in a 2004 Presidential election year where more conservative voters come out to the polls; and with no education about the bill done on its behalf, it still only failed by a very slim margin, 51-49%," states Giordano. "This time around, whether it be the State bill, or local piece of legislation, we are ready to promote such through the many media means available to us and through social programs, organizations and community groups, we shall ensure the passage of both if need be."
The State bill though does not lower the age to 18, for the Senate sponsor of SB47, Senator Joan Carter Conaway feels that it is better to first try to align the age requirements as done now. While its currently 25-years old to run for Senate and 21-years of age to run for Delegate, she wants to see only the Senate age reduced to 21, aligning the age with that of a State Delegate, rather than trying to lower them both. "You don't want to bite off more than you can chew," says an upbeat Conaway, who believes that the support is there to change the current Senatorial age. "Being the Chaorwoman of the committee its in front of doesn't hurt either," said Conaway. However others want to see at least the Delegate's age reduced to 18, if not both. Former City Council candidate Cortly C.D. Witherspoon, who gave Giordano the idea through his talents at such a young age years ago, said that he believed in the fight to lower the age to 18, not 21. "Why would you be so-called ready to lead and serve at 21, yet not 18," said a fiery Reverend Witherspoon. "We at the Baltimore Branch of the SCLC believe in both bills, though we'd rather see the Senate bill reflective of the Baltimore City bill, yet we will stand vigilant in our stance that young people cannot only serve at the young of age, they could run circles around some of those twice their age!"
Neither piece of legislation has yet to receive a hearing date, however the Senate bill would go to the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Health Committee, while the House bill would go to the Ways and Means Committee. The City Council bill would go before the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee, chaired by Councilman Jim Kraft and seems to have the necessary co-sponsors to at least see it come out of the sub-committee and committee as a whole and passed on to the Council as a whole for second and third readers for final passage. Neither the Council President nor the Mayor have taken an official position on the bill, however Young and Rawlings-Blake both supported the original bill in 2003. Governor O'Malley's office has yet to respond to our request whether or not he supports the State measure, however if passed by the super-majority needed to go to the voters, the bill would not require his signature. For more information on these bills or to get involved and either speak at or just show up to the hearings either in Annapolis or in Baltimore you may contact Mr. Giordano at 443.473.6401 or email him at email@example.com.
Victoria Kent is a Loyola University graduate who serves as the Chief Operating Officer (C.O.O.) of GCOMM Media Co. and serves as the Secretary of IMPAC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries, questions or comments.
For a further look into the State legislation and the opinions of other legislators look at the recent Gazette article found here: