DETROIT – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign on Tuesday sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in federal court over his unconstitutional attempt to block young voters from casting ballots in the state’s March 15 presidential primary election.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, along with six Ohio 17-year-olds seeking to vote in next week’s presidential primary in the Buckeye State. It alleges that Husted’s directive would “arbitrarily discriminate” against young voters, who U.S. census data show are more heavily African American and Latino than older groups of voters.
The legal action seeking injunctive relief against the secretary of state was announced by Sanders at a plane-side news conference before a flight from Michigan to Florida. “I want to do everything that I can to encourage people to participate. Unfortunately, in the state of Ohio there is an effort by the secretary of state to do exactly the opposite,” Sanders said.
Ohio is among more than 20 states where 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the general election in November are allowed to vote in primaries. Last December, however, the secretary of state decided the young voters were ineligible to participate in the presidential primary. The lawsuit contends that action discriminates against minorities. It also says that the secretary of state’s actions violate the Due Process and Equal Protection provisions of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner, who ran against Husted for secretary of state, said 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.”
“A lot of people talk about voting rights. Sen. Sanders is walking the walk, not just talking the talk,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager.
Sanders has encouraged young people to get involved in the political process and has drawn large numbers of young supporters to his campaign for president. “What every political scientist understands is that 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,” he said.
To read the lawsuit, click here.