Yellow Springs again to decide if teens, non-U.S. citizens should vote

Voters in the village of Yellow Springs will be asked to pass charter amendments that would lower the voting age to 16, and allow immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to vote on local issues and races.

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Voters in the village of Yellow Springs will be asked to pass charter amendments that would lower the voting age to 16, and allow immigrants who are not U.S. citizens to vote on local issues and races.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Ohio primary election was moved from March 17. The deadline to vote in the Ohio primary election is April 28. Voters must request an absentee ballot from their county’s board of election if they have not already voted. All absentee ballots mailed in must have a postmark of April 27 to be counted, and all ballots must be received by the boards by May 8 to be counted. Voters can drop off the ballots to board offices in person by 7:30 p.m. April 28. In-person voting will be offered on April 28, but will only occur at boards of elections early voting center and only be available for people with disabilities who require in-person voting and people who do not have a home mailing address. Local election officials say voters need to make sure they include all the required information on absentee ballot request forms and pay close attention to unsolicited request forms they get in the mail. State law allows ballots to be scanned but they cannot be tabulated until 7:30 p.m. April 28.

Voters in the village of Yellow Springs will once again decide on charter amendments that would lower the voting age to 16 and allow non-U.S. citizens to vote — both only on village issues and races — as well as extend the mayor’s elected term from two to four years.

All three issues appeared under Issue 13 on the November ballot and were rejected with 52% voting “no,” according to the Greene County Board of Elections. This time around, the Yellow Springs village council members believe the issues might have a better chance of passing because they will be voted on as separate issues.

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Issue 3 would amend the charter to allow the mayor “to be nominated for a term of four years, commencing with the November 2021 general election,” according to a sample ballot.

Issue 4 would make residents who are 16 years of age and older eligible to vote for Yellow Springs local issues and local candidates.

Issue 5 would allow residents of the village who are non-U.S. citizens to be eligible to vote for local issues and local candidates.

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Some voters didn’t like that the issues were combined last year, said Brian Housh, president of Yellow Springs Council.

“So there was a request from citizens that we put the items back on the ballot as three separate items,” he said.

Housh, who works as the speech and debate coach for Yellow Springs High School and middle school, said he was disappointed when the issues were more controversial last fall than council predicted.

“In fact, our former village manager made the comment that she thought they were all no-brainer kind of issues, but we discovered that in fact, I guess everything has the potential to be controversial on some level,” Housh said.

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Some criticism of the Issue 4 amendment, Housh said, especially among the village’s older residents, claimed 16 and 17-year-olds are too immature.

“Research shows when people vote earlier, they will develop that habit when they get older,” Housh said. “Voting numbers show 18- to 25-year-olds generally aren’t participating.”

There is a national campaign to lower the voting age to 16.

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Christopher Conard, attorney for the village, was asked in August to provide a legal opinion regarding the authority of the village to place the charter amendments on the ballot.

In Conard’s letter addressed to Greene County Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Ellis, who was advising the elections board, Conard cited Ohio’s laws on who can vote and noted the omission of the word “municipalities” from those state laws.

“The omission of municipalities is significant as it is a conscious decision by the General Assembly to not legislate in the area of voter eligibility for municipalities in recognition of their home-rule power permitting them to deviate from Ohio law on matters of local concern,” Conard’s letter says.

“From council’s perspective, we’re fine with separating them out and putting them back on the ballot,” Housh said. “I think that’s where it’s going to be interesting to see — Do they all pass? Do they all but (one) pass? Different people have different issues about all three.”

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