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Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Sonia Yaco was the 1972 Human Rights Party candidate for the Ann Arbor, Michigan school board. When she ran for office at the age of fifteen, she became the youngest documented candidate ever for a publicly elected school board seat in the United States.
Calling for student voice in school leadership, Yaco was a youth activist with Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor. After announcing her campaign and working with allies from the Human Rights Party, Yaco completed the procedural requirements for candidacy by submitting a petition with signatures from more than eighty-five qualified electors requesting that she be certified as a candidate. The Office of Operations of the Ann Arbor Public Schools denied certification of Yaco's candidacy in an attempt to stop her bid for a seat.
On June 7, 1972 the Human Rights Party requested a court hearing to stop the vote from happening before the trial was held. Their request for a preliminary injunction was denied by a district court judge. The election was held on June 12, 1972, without Yaco's name on the ballot, but Yaco received eight percent of the total votes as a write-in candidate.
The Human Rights Party filed a lawsuit with the US District court for eastern Michigan, Human Rights Party v. Secretary of State for Michigan. They requested that the court declare the statute unconstitutional on the ground that it denies persons under eighteen years of age equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court argued that Court in Oregon v. Mitchell, YMCA Vote at 18 Club v. Board of Elections of the City of N.Y. and McGowan v. Maryland provided precedents of age deterrents. In YMCA Vote at 18 Club..., in particular, the court had specifically found that school boards can exclude students under eighteen from running for school-board seats, primarily because of concerns about "maturity." The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling.
Yaco went on to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin, and developed a career in the field of archival records and administration. She is currently an assistant professor at the University Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the head of Director of Social Justice Projects and Research.