Nine teenagers file lawsuit against Secretary of State over right to vote in primary

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Nine teenagers from Ohio are suing Secretary of State Jon Husted for his refusal to allow 17-year-olds to vote in next week’s primary.

The complaint, filed in Franklin County, says the most recent version of the Ohio Election Manual released by Husted in December violates the state’s Election Code.

“Secretary of State Husted, his officers, agents, employees, servants attorneys and those persons in active concert in participation with him, of Ohio’s Election Manual’s rules forbidding any registered 17-year-old who will be 18 on or before the November 8, 2016 general election from voting in  Ohio’s 2016 presidential primary, in contravention of the clear terms of Ohio Revised Code,” Attorney Rachel Bloomekatz said.

The lawsuit follows a Federal Lawsuit filed by Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders who is also trying to prevent the Secretary of State from barring certain 17-year-old voters who will be 18 in November from voting in Ohio’s March Primary.

It argues the state law does allow 17-year olds to vote in primaries including presidential ones.

Something Secretary Of State Jon Husted says is “flat out wrong.”  He says the law is clear, 17-year-olds can only nominate, not elect, because they are not 18 years of age. He says it's been this way for 30 years and questions why this year it's an issue now.  “We didn't just make this up.  There is nothing new here.  This is my sixth primary and every primary has been run by the same rules."

But others disagree. Dan Tokaji is an election law professor at Ohio State and says Husted is dead wrong in his interpretation.

He says he's read the statute and says he believes a 17-year-old who turns 18 in November does have the right to vote for president in the primary and should not be limited to just congressional or senatorial races.

“I think the Secretary Of State and his lawyers should read what the statue says. It says 17-year-olds at the time of the election are entitled to vote in a primary election.  The only question: is this a primary election? And it is,” Tokaji said.

Ohio’s primary is scheduled for March 15 with early voting already underway.

The teens are asking for a decision to be issued by Friday at noon.

You can read the full compliant here.

 

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released the following statement regarding a lawsuit filed today about what 17-year-olds are permitted to vote on in a primary election:

“I welcome this lawsuit and I am very happy to be sued on this issue because the law is crystal clear.

“We are following the same rules Ohio has operated under in past primaries, under both Democrat and Republican administrations. There is nothing new here. If you are going to be 18 by the November election, you can vote, just not on every issue.

“That means 17-year-olds can vote in the primary, but only on the nomination of candidates to the General Election ballot. They are not permitted to elect candidates, which is what voters are doing in a primary when they elect delegates to represent them at their political party’s national convention, or vote on issues like school, police and fire levies.”

 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the following statement in response to a lawsuit brought by a number of eligible 17-year-old voters challenging Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive to exclude them from presidential primary voting:

“Ohio law is clear and has permitted those who will be 18 years old before the November election to vote in the presidential primary since 1981. Disenfranchising eligible voters is wrong, creates confusion, and drives people away from the voting process. I applaud these extraordinary young Ohioans in their fight to be able to vote in our state’s presidential primary.”