Yellow Springs seeks to lower voting age to 16

Voting could be extended to 16- and 17-year-olds in Yellow Springs local elections as early as next year if local voters approve the measure on the next ballot.

Brian Housh, village council president, says that this initiative shows that Yellow Springs is attempting to be more inclusive with who can participate in voting on local decisions. Lowering the voting age is a growing movement in places such as Washington D.C.

“Part of what we are looking at is the foundation of who contributes to our community, and 16- and 17-year-olds certainly do. They can drive, work in our community and pay taxes. Therefore, they should have a say in the community and definitely how they want their education to go.”

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The change would require amending the village charter. Yellow Springs Village Council passed a resolution at their July 1 meeting to do so, which now goes to voters on the November ballot.

“It’s now up to our citizens to decide if they think this will benefit our community, and the board of elections to come up with a process that makes sense,” said Housh.

If approved, the 16- and 17-year-olds could vote on council members, mayor and other initiatives such as a village charter amendment change. They would only be voting on issues related to Yellow Springs, not state or federal ones.

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In major national elections, such as the 2020 presidential election, it is likely that minors in Yellow Springs would receive a separate ballot featuring local issues only.

“We would have to make accommodations for the ballots and would seek legal advice from the county prosecutor and Ohio Secretary of State,” said Denise Percival, Greene County Board of Elections deputy director.

There are 20 countries around the world that have voting ages lower than 18, according to Vote16USA, a national group advocating lowering the voting age. They say such countries include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Germany, Indonesia and Scotland.

“We thought about some research and statistics that say the younger you start to vote, the more likely you are to continue voting. This is common in Europe, where countries like Austria, Germany and many others have voting starting at 16,” said Housh. “If you have a stake in your community you should have the right to vote.”

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Lowering the voting age can improve voter turnout, spur civic engagement and encourage effective civic education, according to the Vote16USA website.

There are 100 or fewer 16- and 17-year-olds in Yellow Springs and approximately 2,000 people eligible to cast ballots, so these new voters would make up about 5 percent or less, according to Housh.

“There is a large movement in getting more women and minorities such as African Americans or Hispanics to vote,” said Josue Salmeron, village manager. “So, in our community, we are being proactive in attempting to give everyone a voice. We want them to know that their voice matters and should be included.”

Editors Note: This article has been updated to clarify that under the new policy 16 and 17 year olds would be able to vote on Yellow Springs village council elections and village issues only; they would not be able to vote on school board, county, state or federal races or issues.

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