Daughter, 17, Votes, Exercises Civic Duty

The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Betsy Reason’s 17-year-old daughter, Addie, votes in the Primary Election last Tuesday at her polling site in Noblesville.
Betsy Reason’s 17-year-old daughter, Addie, proudly wore her “I voted” American flag sticker given out at the polling site after voting. A state allow allows 17-year-olds to vote in the Primary if they turn 18 by the General Election.

I was so thrilled to learn that my 17-year-old daughter had registered to vote. And she was preparing to go to her polling site to vote on Election Day.

Her high school government teacher this semester informed students that they could vote in the Primary Election as long as they turned 18 by the General or Municipal Election.

Addie turns 18 later this month.

Being the child of a journalist, she is and has been more aware of elections and political candidates than most kids her age. She has followed me to my polling site many times ever since she was little. 

Being that she often tags along wherever I go, she has met politicians that include former and current mayors, state representatives, senators, the governor,  commissioners, county and city councilors, state delegates, precinct committee persons, and various political candidates, many who know her by name when they see her out and about. 

She has been a page at the Statehouse twice. She has helped her dad campaign for political offices. 

Addie knows or is aware of most of the players. 

Preparing for Election Day, she looked up her sample ballot online to familiarize herself with all the candidates and did her research.

Addie didn’t want to early vote or by absentee paper ballot but instead wanted her first time voting to be on Election Day at her own polling site.

Two days before Election Day, we talked  about voting and asked her to go through the sample ballot again and write her picks in a notebook to take with her so that when she got to the polling site, she wouldn’t forget or be unsure, with so many names on the ballot.

We went to the polling site together after school so we could vote at the same time. I think some of the poll workers might’ve been surprised to see a 17-year-old come in to vote. Addie showed her driver’s license, and poll workers found her name on the registered voters list.

“They saw my birthdate, and they didn’t know how to receive it, so I think I was the first one at that polling location that had been 17 … I think they were a little surprised,” my daughter told me.

Addie fielded more questions from others later in the day.

She credits her government teacher “Mr. Gunderson,” for registering to vote. “Basically, he brought it up in class, telling us to register,” she said. A link to register to vote was easily accessible on a page in students’ Canvas, a web-based learning management system that the students use to communicate with teachers and turn in assignments. “I don’t know how many people were interested in it. He just kind of informed us that if we turn 18 before November that we are able to vote.”

Addie said, “I don’t know how many people knew that they could vote in the primary when they were 17.” 

Hamilton County Election Administrator Beth Sheller said she doesn’t know how many 17-year-olds are registered or took advantage of voting on Tuesday.
But she elaborated on the law. “State law allows a 17-year-old, who is eligible to vote in a Primary, to be able to nominate candidates for the November ballot and also to vote for political offices of precinct committeeman and state convention delegates.

Sheller said there is an exclusion for a 17-year-old voter when voting in the primary. “They cannot vote for a ‘Public Question.’ So, if we had a public question in a Primary Election, then we would have a separate ballot for 17-year-olds that excluded that question. (There was not a public question on the recent Primary ballot.) The reason is that these contests are not a nomination to put something on the ballot in the fall, but instead are actually deciding on the question.”

Addie said some of her friends at school didn’t know of the law.

“I think it’s a very low number (of 17-year-old voters), because I don’t think a lot of people even know in the State of Indiana that it is a law,” she said.

Sheller was glad to hear that Addie voted. “It’s a great thing to get out there so that more young people will be encouraged to vote,” Sheller said.
Addie, who proudly wore her “I voted” American flag sticker given out at the polling site after voting, said, “It is a really cool opportunity to get to exercise your civic duty for your county and your state.” 

-Betsy Reason writes about people, places and things in Hamilton County. Contact The Times Editor Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.