- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

RICHMOND — The House of Delegates today will debate a bill that would allow children to sell cookies and brownies at polling places, a measure that has failed several times but has a new sponsor this session.

The House Privileges and Elections Committee moved the bill to the House floor in a 14-7 vote last week.

The bill specifically states that nonprofit groups that have no political or partisan purpose and have not endorsed political candidates may hold bake sales at polling places on Election Day, provided the local election board approves the sale.

The bill was sponsored by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a Manassas Republican who supported it last year when it was introduced by a Democrat.

“There is no sinister plot,” Mr. Marshall told the committee. “The kids are not putting notes in fortune cookies telling you who to vote for.”

The committee approved a similar bill last year after a group of Fairfax County fourth-graders brought homemade cookies and brownies to lobby the members. But the bill failed on the House floor days later in a 42-55 vote.

It had been introduced by state Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller and Delegate Kristen J. Amundson, both Fairfax County Democrats.

Miss Amundson said she hopes having a Republican sponsor will improve the bill’s chances for approval.

“There is just no threat to democracy from a group of fourth-graders selling brownies,” she said. “I just do not understand why people are so nervous about this. There was no rational explanation for why people are so emotionally wrapped up in this.”

Several years ago, a Fairfax County parent-teacher association that had endorsed political candidates held a bake sale that seemed to have political intent, lawmakers said.

Mr. Marshall’s bill states that such sales can be held only by people who are too young to vote.

The Privileges and Elections Committee removed that provision from the bill. Members said children should not be required to handle money from the sales without adult supervision.

“We ought to have a den mother there helping Brownies sell brownies,” said Delegate James H. Dillard II, Fairfax County Republican.

Mr. Marshall argued against the amendment. He noted that McDonald’s allows workers younger than 18 to handle cash and said it shouldn’t be a problem for the bake sales.

If the bill passes in the House, it will go to the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee and then to the Senate floor. It passed the Senate unanimously last year.

Delegate Melanie L. Rapp, York Republican, voted against allowing the bake sales. “We’ve talked this to death for years,” she said. “I think it’s wrong.”

Other opponents of the bill last year said the children should stand 40 feet from the polls as the law requires.

In the case of the Fairfax County students, the Woodley Hills Elementary School fourth-graders had been holding sales at voting places every Election Day, raising a few hundred dollars to offset the costs of field trips for poor children. Schools typically are closed on Election Day, so the students did not miss class time by participating in the sales.

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