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Buzz Kuhns, Ethan 2018 Campaign
This undated photo provided by the Ethan 2018 Campaign shows Ethan Sonneborn, of Bristol, Vt., who is one of the four Vermont Democrats seeking the party nomination to run for governor in the Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, primary election. The state constitution doesn't have an age requirement for people seeking the state's highest office beyond having lived in the state for four years before the election.

One candidate in Vermont’s primary election for governor on Tuesday made plenty of headlines, not because of his policies, but because he’s not even old enough to vote.

The candidate, Ethan Sonneborn, is 14 years old and will be in the ninth grade this fall. He’s lived in Vermont his entire life and decided to run for governor after seeing the violence in Charlottesville last summer and feeling helpless, he told NBC.

In Tuesday’s primary, Sonneborn received more than 8 percent of the vote — higher than anyone could have predicted.

Charles Krupa
Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ethan Sonneborn, who is a 14-year old student, talks with supporters at his election night party in Winooski, Vt., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Sonneborn has taken advantage of a quirk in state law that doesn't require gubernatorial candidates to be registered voters.

Vermont’s constitution doesn’t have an age requirement for those who wish to run for governor. It’s only required to have lived in the state for at least four years prior — a qualification the teenager certainly meets.

The requirements are a bit stricter in Utah. Candidates for governor must be at least 30 years old. But what if that wasn’t the case?

How can a young voice make a difference in a way that others can’t?

Sonneborn said he believes it’s important to have voices advocating for those not represented in government, and his campaign shows that our youths often have a better hold on issues than we give them credit for.

Sonneborn’s campaign and the response from voters got us thinking:

How can a young voice make a difference in a way that others can’t?

While many teenagers are already involved in political and social issues through their schools or local organizations, opportunity for political youth engagement remains low. Giving them more opportunities to experience firsthand the processes that run our country could create a more politically literate generation, one that is prepared to make changes and lead the country in a positive direction.

4 comments on this story

As a teenager in Utah, how would you respond to a chance to run for governor? What issues need to be addressed and what would you like to see change?

We invite all youths under 18 to respond to this prompt. Write your vision in 600 words or less, and send it in an email addressed to [email protected] Please put “Teen governor” in the subject line.

The Deseret News will pick a winning response based on clarity of writing and a thoughtful discussion of relevant issues. The winner will receive an opportunity to meet one-on-one meeting with Gov. Gary Herbert.

Submissions will be accepted through Sept. 9.