Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Pa., Primary Voters Must Be 18 17-Year-Olds Who Will Be 18 by Nov. Election Cannot Vote April 26

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Pa., Primary Voters Must Be 18 17-Year-Olds Who Will Be 18 by Nov. Election Cannot Vote April 26

Article excerpt

If Seneca Valley High School senior Ariella Meltzer lived about 45 minutes west of her Butler County home, the politically astute 17-year-old would have been allowed to cast a ballot for a presidential nominee in Ohio's primary election March 15.

But, because she lives in Pennsylvania, she won't be allowed to vote in her state's spring primary on April 26 - although she can have her say in the November general contest seven months later, after she turns 18 in August.

"It just makes logical sense to me that if I'll be able to vote in the general election, I should be able to vote in the primary election that decides the candidates [for the general election]," said Ariella, a college-bound student in Advanced Placement Government at Seneca Valley and vice president of the Rose E. Schneider YMCA Delegation to Youth and Government, a national YMCA model-government program.

Ariella and others like her who will be 18 years old by the November general election but who are 17 at the time of their state's primary election are known in political circles as "threshold voters." Such voters are considered by some as a potentially pivotal subset of prospective voters, especially this year when Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is seeking his party's nomination. Pollsters say Mr. Sanders' surprise win over Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary this month was driven in part by his perceived popularity with younger voters. CNN exit polls said Mr. Sanders corralled the support of 81 percent of those aged 18 to 29 in the Michigan primary.

Neighboring Ohio became a battleground this month, not just among political candidates but also among constituents. At the nexus of the argument were Ohio's threshold voters. In December 2015 - in an apparent response to a statewide campaign encouraging young people to "Vote at 17" - Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, reinterpreted a decades-old law in such a way as to restrict threshold voters from casting ballots in the Ohio primary. It was a short-lived edict. The courts ruled March 11 the secretary of state was wrong and that threshold voters could continue to participate in primary elections as they had been doing since 1981. …

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