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Ohio Issue 2 could spur legal challenges for 17-year-old voters, says OSU law professor


Ohio 17-year-olds have long had the right to vote early and in primaries, so long as their 18th birthday falls on or before Election Day.

Issue 2 would bar local governments from allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections.

But it also adds a line to the existing statute: "No person who lacks these qualifications shall be permitted to vote at any state or local election held in the state."

One could interpret those "qualifications" to include being 18 to cast a ballot, said Steven Huefner, a law professor with The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

"This new sentence, 'No person who lacks those qualifications,' could be construed to mean no person who is not of the age of 18 shall be permitted to vote at any state or local election held in this state," Huefner said.

In an email, Ohio Secretary of State's office spokesman Rob Nichols said it's "not true" that Issue 2 would change voting rights for eligible 17-year-olds, adding "Critics can say whatever they want, but they’re partisans and are often wrong."

While Prof. Huefner did not disagree with that assessment, he did say the language of Issue 2 could be used to challenge voting rights for 17-year-olds in court.

"I don't think that's what the drafters of this proposed amendment of the constitution were intending," Huefner said. "I don't think they meant to restrict voting at the primary election to people who have the qualification of being 18, but there is an argument to be made that that's what the language would do."

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.