Ohio bars 17 y.o.’s who will be 18 in November from voting in next week’s primary

Traditionally Ohio, in accordance with 21 other states, allows 17 year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the current year’s general election to vote in that year’s primaries.

This year, for the first time since 1981, this will not be the case.

Because Secretary of State John Husted said so.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Can't Vote, via Daniel Lobo / Flickr

Can’t Vote, via Daniel Lobo / Flickr

According to the 2015 election manual, released by Husted, the crux of the issue lies in the difference between “electing” and “nominating.” Seventeen-year-old voters are allowed to nominate candidates for office — meaning they can vote in other primary races such as the U.S. Senate race and the Ohio legislative races. But they are not allowed to directly elect an official. In the case of a presidential primary, voters don’t nominate candidates — they elect delegates to do the nominating for them.

The Ohio Revised Code states “every qualified elector” who will be 18 years old by the time of the general election has a right to vote in the primary. That specific line of code makes no exception for presidential primaries.

Husted’s argument that primary voters aren’t electing a presidential nominee, they’re electing delegates, follows the same logic as arguing that we don’t elect a president at all. If you want to get technical and make sure that no one ever talks to you again at parties, you could point out that this November we will elect electors to the Electoral College to elect a president for us. However, for what should be obvious reasons, that’s a technicality that people almost never invoke. And for the same obvious reasons, Ohio has chosen not to parse this distinction in their primaries for the last 35 years: As is currently the case with almost all of the Electoral College, Ohio’s delegates are bound to follow the wishes of the state’s electorate (on the first ballot, at least). For all intents and purposes, these are elections — even if there are anachronistic and redundant middlemen in the process.

This is the second in a pair of recent bureaucratic technicalities aimed at restricting ballot access for soon-to-be 18 year-old voters. Late last month, Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine rejected a petition for a ballot initiative proposing automatic voter registration because, in his estimation, the summary and full text of the proposal didn’t match and could potentially have misled voters. The supposed (and, as I argued, meaningless) mismatch in question? Preregistration for 16 year-olds who would be 18 by the time of the next statewide election.

Ohio has a relatively short but dense history of making it harder for young people, particularly students, to vote. This is but the latest in a string of attempts by Republicans in the state to restrict ballot access for restrictions’ sake.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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