U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted before boarding a plane to Florida. Sanders joined six Ohio youth in a lawsuit filed in federal court alleging voter blocking and discrimination by the SOS. Video courtesy Bernie Sanders 2016/Youtube
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,” – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Sanders joined six Ohio 17 year-old in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio.
The youth are seeking the right to vote in Ohio’s presidential primary to be held on March 15. The complaint alleges that Husted’s directive, negating the vote of anyone under 18 years of age specifically for primary voting, even if they reach the 18 before the general election in November is contrary to the law and historical voting practices.
Sanders alleges that Husted’s interpretation “arbitrarily discriminates” against young voters, who U.S. census data show are more heavily African American and Latino than older groups of voters.
The lawsuit alleges,
“The foreseeable consequence — and possibly the intended consequence — of
Defendant’s Reinterpretation is to reduce electoral participation within the age cohort in which minority voters are represented in the highest proportions.”
“What every political scientist understands is that when you engage young people in the political process there is a strong likelihood that they will continue to vote. I am determined to do everything that I can to increase voter turnout, to involve young people in the people of process,” Sanders said.
Husted, a Republican, tested the temperature of voter blocking in the state before. In 2015 he attempted to reduce early voting times and limit weekend and evening voting hours. The ACLU, NAACP and League of Women Voters of Ohio challenged Husted in Federal Court arguing that the actions disproportionately affected lower-income and black voters. A settlement was reached that shortened early voting, but expanded weekend voting times.
Ohio is one of more than 20 states that allows youth turning 18 years of age prior to the date of the general election in November to participate in the election process.
Husted’s interpretation of the law is premised on the difference between electing and nominating officials.
“I welcome this lawsuit and I am very happy to be sued on this issue because the law is crystal clear,” said Husted in a statement on Tuesday.
“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.”
The lawsuit calls attention to the Ohio SOS “vote @ 17” initiative and which states that
“The only things 17-year-olds can’t vote on at the primary are one-time questions on issues like school levies or statewide ballot issues. In addition, 17 year-olds are not permitted to vote on the election of state or county central committee persons.”
Former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, also disagreed with Husted. In a statement released by Sanders campaign, Turner said that Ohio law is clear that 17-year-olds may vote in presidential primaries.
“We should be encouraging young people to get involved in elections, not shutting them out,” she said. “I’m proud that Sen. Sanders is leading the fight to protect the voting rights of all Ohioans.”
Sanders addressed the press corp before boarding a plane to Florida.
“In the United States of America today, we have one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any major country on Earth. I am determined to everything that I can to increase voter turnout, to involve young people in the political process.
Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver said “A lot of people talk about voting rights. Sen. Sanders is walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”
This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on March 8, 2016.