Mixed race student carrying books

A college student voter. Getty Images.


Gen Z and millennial voters could play an important role in deciding fate of reproductive rights amendment and marijuana law

by David DeWitt

For Gen Z and millennial Ohio voters, Issue 1 and Issue 2 are critically important. Whether we vote and how we vote will shape what kind of rights and freedoms we have for ourselves and our loved ones well into the future.

Issue 1 would establish a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy.

Issue 2 would create a new state law to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and above, including cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, possession, and home growth.

Tussling over legal access to abortion care and the criminalization of marijuana has shaped American politics for decades, and they stand as two issues where the consequences of law and policy fall heaviest on younger people.

In an average of births in Ohio between 2019 and 2021, 4.9% were to women under the age of 20, and 2.5% were to women ages 40 and older, while 92.6% were to women ages 20 to 39, according to the March of Dimes.

Using Ohio Department of Health statistics for 2022, patients 17 and under received 2.5% of abortions performed, and patients over age 40 received 3% of abortions performed, while patients between the ages of 18 and 40 received 94.5% of abortions performed.

According to the FBI Crime Data Explorer — which does not sort by type of drug involved in state-by-state data — 60% of drug violations in Ohio in 2022 were charged against people between the ages of 20 and 39, a far higher percentage than any other age group. Nationwide, it wasn’t until 2020 that other drugs took over marijuana possession as the No. 1 reason for a drug-related arrest. Nevertheless, more than 315,000 people across America were arrested for marijuana possession in 2020, accounting for 27.5% of drug-related arrests. Also in 2020, Black Americans accounted for about 38.8% of marijuana possession arrests despite representing just 13.6% of the population.

Younger voters are notoriously unreliable at showing up to vote during non-presidential elections, much less odd-number year elections. Even during presidential elections they show up to the polls at lower rates than other age groups.

The 2020 presidential election, for instance, had the highest turnout of the 21st century, with 66.8% of citizens 18 years and older voting, but for voters ages 18 to 24, only 51.4% cast ballots, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports. In 2018, Americans ages 18 to 29 made up 11% of voters and 30% of non-voters, according to Pew Research Center. In 2022, they made up 10% of voters and 27% of non-voters.

This Nov. 7 in Ohio, the stakes are highest for millennial and Gen Z voters. What kind of present and future do we want for ourselves and for Ohio?

What rights do we want to establish in the constitution, or would we rather leave it up to the politicians to determine our generations’ access to reproductive medical care?

What kind of freedom do we think adults 21 and over should have from criminal marijuana charges, or should Ohio continue to saddle adults with drug offense records over cannabis possession?

Voting is our most precious and fundamental right, the spigot from which all of our other rights and freedoms flow. Gen Z and millennial generation voters must participate in these critical decisions, or we are relinquishing significant power over our lives to others who do not bear the same burdens of impact.

As the writer David Foster Wallace observed, “In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

Early voting in Ohio has begun. Here is everything voters need to know:

When do I vote?

For early, in-person voting, vote at your local county board of elections on these days:

  • Oct. 26-27: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Oct. 30: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 31: 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 1-3: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 4: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Nov. 5: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Citizens can no longer vote on Nov. 6, the Monday before the election.

Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6.

On Election Day Nov. 7, vote at your polling location. Find your polling place by clicking or tapping here.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. If you are in line at the time polls close, stay in line, because you can still cast your ballot.

If absentee ballots are not returned by mail, they must be received by your board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

What do I need to vote?

In order to cast a ballot, voters must have an unexpired Photo ID such as a passport or driver’s license. Previously, voters were able to use non-photo documentation such as bank statements, government checks or utility bills to vote. That is no longer the case under a new law passed in Ohio last year. Student IDs are not considered valid under that law.

CLICK HERE for more information on ID requirements.

Here is the list of acceptable types of valid photo ID:

  • Ohio driver’s license
  • State of Ohio ID card
  • Interim ID form issued by the Ohio BMV
  • A US passport
  • A US passport card
  • US military ID card
  • Ohio National Guard ID card
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs ID card

More information for voters

To check your voter registration status, find your polling place, view your sample ballot and more, head to the Ohio Secretary of State’s VoteOhio.gov website.

David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt


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