Voting Rights Press Release

03.07.16

17 Year Old Voters Must be Allowed to Vote in Primary Election, Says ACLU

Voting Rights

COLUMBUS—Today the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted requesting that he issue a directive that clearly affirms the ability of 17 year olds to vote in the presidential primary if they will be 18 by the time of the general election. Conflicting information has created inconsistent policies among county boards of elections regarding the eligibility of 17 year olds to vote for presidential candidates and left many qualified voters unsure if they will be able to cast a ballot in all races.

“Ohio law is clear on this issue,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the ACLU of Ohio. “17 year olds are entitled to cast ballots in primary races when they will be 18 by the date of the general election. However, the Secretary of State is injecting confusion into this election by carving out special exceptions for the presidential race.

The Secretary of State’s Official Election Manual makes a distinction between the ability of 17 year olds in “electing” and “nominating” candidates. The Secretary of State interprets this to block 17 year olds from voting for presidential candidates, since they will actually be electing delegates, who go on to nominate a candidate.

“The Secretary of State is mincing words and creating this unnecessarily murky situation,” Brickner said. “There are no limitations in Ohio law on qualified voters casting ballots in particular races.  But the current policy has led some boards of elections to permit 17 year olds to vote, while others are turning them away.

Read the letter to Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“Given the short timeframe before the March 15 primary, we request Secretary Husted issue a directive immediately that reflects state law on this matter and clearly allows 17 year old voters to cast their primary election ballot, including in the presidential race. Enthusiastic young people going to vote for the first time should not encounter an election system that is in disarray and discourages their participation.

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