Sanders Sues Ohio Over 17-Year-Olds' Right to Vote

But Ohio's secretary of state says the law is 'crystal clear' they're not allowed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2016 12:38 PM CST
Sanders Sues Ohio Over 17-Year-Olds' Right to Vote
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally Tuesday in Miami.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Bernie Sanders' campaign has filed a suit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, accusing him of unlawfully trying to keep 17-year-olds from voting in Tuesday's primary, CNN reports. "The secretary of state has decided to disenfranchise people who are 17 but will be 18 by the day of the general election," says Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager. Husted, for his part, says he's "very happy to be sued on this issue because the law is crystal clear," per the Hill. Though maybe not as clear as he thinks: Per the Columbus Dispatch, Husted is citing the 2015 election manual, which says eligible 17-year-olds can nominate candidates for office—so other primary races, such as those for the US Senate and state legislative positions, are fair game—but they can't elect candidates for office (and in the Ohio presidential primary, voters are technically electing delegates to nominate for them).

But Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Clyde says there's no precedence for Husted's interpretation, and the Dispatch points out Ohio's Revised Code, which says "every qualified elector who is or will be on the day of the next general election eighteen or more years of age ... shall be entitled to vote ... at the primary election," with no mentioned exception for presidential primaries. The Sanders' campaign also brings up in its suit a 2009 pamphlet put out by Ohio's then-secretary of state that clearly shows eligible 17-year-olds can vote in the presidential primary, but not for "one-time questions on issues like school levies or statewide ballot issues" or for "election of state or county central committee persons." Sanders calls the block "unconstitutional" and adds "it is an outrage that [Husted] … is going out of his way to keep young people—significantly African-American young people, Latino young people—from participating." (One of the biggest political upsets ever: Bernie's win in Michigan Tuesday.)

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