State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today introduced House Bill 637, the Ohio Future Voter Act, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. Under the bill, pre-registered Ohioans would automatically be added to the state voter rolls before the next primary or general election in which they are eligible to vote.
“Young people in Ohio have demonstrated that they are engaged and they want their voices to be heard,” said Rep. Clyde. “The Ohio Future Voter Act will improve voter registration and ultimately improve young voter turnout here in Ohio. States like North Carolina, Utah, Maryland and others have already passed similar legislation and we should show our young people here in Ohio that their voices matter, too.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 59 percent of young people aged 18 to 24 years old are registered to vote. The Ohio Future Voter Act aims to meet young Ohioans where they are in order to close that gap. The bill also designates January 16th or the last school day before January 16th as Future Voter Day.
“We support the pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds because it puts them on the pathway to becoming responsible and engaged young adults,” said Camille Wimbish, Election Administration Director at Ohio Voice, an organization dedicated to voter participation and civic engagement. “The evidence suggests that pre-registration encourages everyone equally -- young Democrats and young Republicans, men and women, white and black – to become lifelong voters."
In Ohio, those who will be 18 years old by the general election have the right to vote in the primary. A group of 17-year-olds in 2016 sued the current Secretary of State for blocking them from voting in the presidential primary. They won and their voting rights were restored.
Rep. Clyde currently serves as Ranking Member on the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, which hears elections and voting rights bills. She is a lawyer and former election official and was named 2016 Legislator of the Year by the Ohio Association of Election Officials for her voting work.