Ohio Disenfranchising Teen Voters, Sanders Camp Says

     COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Bernie Sanders campaign filed a federal complaint Tuesday as protests surge over the disenfranchisement of newly of-age voters in Ohio.
     Just one day earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that bemoaned “inconsistent policies among county boards of elections regarding the eligibility of 17-year-olds to vote for presidential candidates.”
     “Ohio law is clear: 17-year-olds are entitled to cast ballots in primary races when they will be 18 by the date of the general election,” the letter states, signed by ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner and executive director Christine Link.
     Brickner and Link complain that secretary Husted “has injected confusion” into this election with recent policy that carves out special exceptions for the presidential race.
     With just a week to go until Ohio’s primary election on March 15, the ACLU said some boards of election in Ohio are letting 17-year-olds vote, while others are turning these teens away.
     Calling on Husted to issue an immediate directive, Brickner released a statement blasting the secretary of state for “mincing words and creating this unnecessarily murky situation.”
     When it comes to the youth vote, polls have shown former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton dragging far behind Sanders, who has campaigned on a platform of loan forgiveness, universal health care and free college tuition.
     Not-so coincidentally, Bernie 2016 filed a federal complaint today against Husted, with support from a half-dozen teens who will turn 18 over the next few months, before the Nov. 8 general election. Each of the teens filed suit with one parent.
     Echoing the ACLU’s letter, Bernie and the Ohio residents take issue with Husted’s “reinterpretation” of Section 3505.011 of Ohio law.
     The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office had not returned a request for comment on the objections his office saw today, but Sanders released a statement condemning Husted for “going out of his way to keep young people – significantly African-American young people, Latino young people – from participating” in the primaries.
     Challenging the secretary’s “arbitrary distinction among individuals eligible to vote in the 2016 general election,” the federal complaint against Husted says “threshold voters” have already begun seeing ramifications.
     Husted reported on March 1 that early voters had already cast nearly 70,000 absentee ballots as of that date.
     “The foreseeable consequence of defendant’s reinterpretation is that threshold voters will be less mobilized and less likely to vote in the 2016 general election, having played no part in the selection of candidates for the general election ballot candidates for the general election ballot,” the complaint continues.
     Citing population statistics in Ohio, the plaintiffs extrapolate that disenfranchising “threshold” voters will have a more sinister impact.
     “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,” the complaint states.
     Bernie 2016 and the Ohio residents are represented by Robert Cohen with Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter, and by Malcolm Seymour of Garvey Schubert Barer.
     Another nine “threshold voters” sued Husted over the same issue Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
     This complaint alleges that Husted’s statutory revision “flatly contradicts the [law’s] unambiguous terms.”
     Gupta Wessler attorney Rachel Bloomekatz represents this group with help from the Washington, D.C.-based Fair Elections Legal Network.

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