Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigned filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s chief elections administrator on Tuesday, alleging that the decision to bar 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by Election Day from voting in the primary is an “unconstitutional attempt to block young voters from casting ballots.”
Sanders announced he filed a federal lawsuit with six 17-year-old voters who contend that they are being unfairly blocked from participating in the state’s March 15 primary by Secretary State Jon Husted. Also on Tuesday, voting rights organization Fair Elections Legal Network and nine other 17-year-olds filed a separate suit alleging the same violation of elections law.
Young voters make up a large part of Sanders’ coalition, and he continues to perform better in states with large student populations.
“It is an outrage that the secretary of state in Ohio is going out of his way to keep young people — significantly African-American young people, Latino young people — from participating,” Sanders said in a statement.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, 17-year-olds in Ohio can vote only to nominate candidates, not directly elect them. In the most recent election manual, Husted claimed that since voters in presidential primaries are technically electing delegates, they cannot vote in those elections.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) first drew attention to this issue when she released a statement last week calling the policy an “underhanded, backroom attack.”
Husted responded to the lawsuits on Tuesday, saying he is “very happy to be sued on this issue.”
Husted has been targeted by students and young voters for trying to restrict them from casting ballots in the past. Ohio students sued him last May, alleging that changes he made to eliminate early voting and weekend hours disproportionately hurt young people and those who tend to vote Democratic. Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, is also a plaintiff in that lawsuit, although the Clinton campaign is not directly involved.
Husted has also trashed provisional ballots and defied court orders to keep early voting open, and retaliating against voting officials who opposed his efforts.
And he has also targeted non-white voters. After he accused undocumented immigrants of illegally voting last year, he launched a voter fraud investigation that found that just four non-citizens had voted in Ohio since 2000.