Think politics are only for grownups? Don’t tell that to Julie Towbin, a feisty 17-year-old Floridian who is not afraid to put her money where her mouth is when it comes to political campaigns. A federal judge Monday ruled in favor of Tobin’s suit to block a state law that would prohibit minors from contributing more than $100 to a political campaign.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams issued a temporary injunction blocking the enforcement of Florida’s political-contribution cap in response to Towbin’s suit. Williams said the law “had a chilling effect on the free speech and associational rights.”
The Florida branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has helped the tenacious teen by suing on her behalf. The suit was filed when the teen was unable to attend an invitation-only dinner for the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee. Towbin, who sits on the committee, hoped to buy the $150 ticket but was unable to when she found out that paying the price of the ticket could violate the state’s campaign finance law.
When asked how, as a minor, she could sit on the Democratic Executive Committee, Towbin explained to ABC News that the only requirement is to be a registered or preregistered voter. Towbin, who preregistered at age 16, is eligible to be a committee member and therefore invited to the annual dinner.
But because she is a minor and 100 percent of the ticket profit is considered to be a contribution to the Democratic Executive Committee, Towbin could not attend. If she had been born a few months earlier, she would have been able not only to attend but also have a $350 cushion to donate because Florida finance laws allow adults to contribute up to $500 per election.
“Under the former law,” Towbin said, “my contribution is only a fifth of an impact compared to an adult because they can contribute $500 to my $100.”
Towbin doesn’t think that is fair because she pays for the contributions herself. “My parents support my case but don’t give me money to contribute,” Towbin admits.
When asked how she gets the money to support her local politicians, she says she “worked as a cashier at a local family business and also had money left over from being a page” last year.
An ACLU spokesman said that although the blocked law is technically still on the books, the state can’t enforce if because of its “chilling effect” on the First Amendment, as the judge noted.
The young woman, whose parents are “not big contributors,” already has plans to exercise her new-found rights by donating upwards of $500. According to the coy teen who would not disclose any names, “I plan on contributing to the campaigns of a School Board candidate and one of my state representatives.”