The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Issue 2 on Ohio’s 2022 general election ballot is worrying some Gen-Z voters, due to a provision that may reduce the number of 18-year-olds eligible to vote.
Born between 1996 to 2012, Generation Z is starting to get into the world of politics.
After getting permission from one of his teachers, a former Democratic primary candidate for a Cincinnati house district got to leave his class early to chat with OCJ/WEWS. Sam Cao ran as a 17-year-old.
He could do this thanks to Ohio’s elections laws that allow anyone to vote in primaries or run for office as long as they are 18 on or before the general election date. However, he fears Issue 2 would change that.
“Seventeen-year-olds could vote in primaries for 30-plus years, since 1981,” Cao said. “And if this overturned, 17-year-olds can’t participate in the democratic process within their own party.”
The ballot amendment was originally created to prohibit local governments from allowing non-citizens, or non-electors, to vote.
However, the language says to be able to vote, the citizen must be at least 18 years old and have been registered to vote for 30 days. That could cut out people like Cao, who have birthdays in October.
It’s not just young Democrats who have raised concerns. Ohio College Republicans’ Teja Paladugu said every legal citizen should have the right to vote if they are 18.
“If you’re born after the 30-day deadline, but also before the actual date of the general election, you are kind of thrown out,” he said. “I would be in favor of an exemption for those types of people.”
So why would this be happening? Young Republican groups say the impact would be limited, or they don’t think it would do anything at all. Young Democrats like Cao believe it’s voter suppression.
“If you’re the ones perpetrating, of course, you’re going to defend it and say that it doesn’t actually do that,” the Democrat added. “They know that our generation leans more of a specific way and it’s contrary to the interest of their party.”
For Paladugu, it’s a gray area.
“There does need to be a voter registration deadline, so you’re not registering to vote, like, after the fact,” the Republican said.
OCJ/WEWS reached out for clarification from Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and his team said that “critics can say whatever they want, obviously, but it doesn’t mean they’re right.”
His spokesperson, Rob Nichols, said the lawmakers would know better.
The amendment was crafted by state Republicans. While going through the House, the measure was sponsored by House Majority Leader Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) and state Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).
After the piece aired on OCJ/WEWS, Seitz gave some clarification.
“We are gathering some information about the number of 17-year-olds who vote in primaries if they are going to turn 18 by the time the real election is held,” he said.
That information should be available soon, he added on Thursday, and it was. On Friday, his team said the number of 17-year-olds who voted in the May primary was 574 and 135 voted in the August primary.
“Meanwhile, the argument that Issue 2 somehow would prevent 17-year-olds from voting in a primary is just another red herring by that small minority of progressive liberals whose real goal is to facilitate voting by noncitizens,” he said on Thursday.
He cited the Constitution already containing the age requirement. He also said that even if opponents are correct that the amendment would prevent 17-year-olds from voting, someone could sue to prevent it.
“It was never our intention to do anything with this amendment beyond slamming shut the door on any future proposal by any local government or by the state General Assembly to permit noncitizens to vote,” he said. “The fact that so many other jurisdictions in ‘blue’ jurisdictions are extending the franchise to noncitizens amply demonstrates why Issue 2 is needed to clarify this issue in Ohio. Even Nan Whaley agrees that Issue 2 deserves passage.”
Want to learn what district you’re in and which candidates you can vote for? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We created a 2022 midterm elections guide, which is updated daily based on the changing candidacies.
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