With only a week to go before the Ohio primaries, Bernie Sanders' campaign on Tuesday filed a lawsuit (pdf) in federal court against Ohio Secretary of State Jon A. Husted, alleging that the state's barring of 17-year-olds from voting in the primary plainly discriminates against young Latino and black voters.
Democratic voters in most states are permitted to vote in primaries, provided they will be 18 by the general election.
Voting rights advocacy group FairVote notes that "Ohio law plainly allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, but the Ohio secretary of state has announced that 17-year-olds may not vote in Ohio's 2016 presidential primary. We disagree with that interpretation of Ohio law."
Sanders told the Washington Post, "This campaign is very proud of the fact that we are bringing many, many people into the political process. We want to continue to see that....Unfortunately, in the state of Ohio, there is an effort on the part of the secretary of state to do exactly the opposite."
Sanders' lawsuit cites census data showing that Ohioans between the ages of 15 and 17 are the age group with the largest proportion of African American and Latino individuals, and argues that the "foreseeable consequence—and possibly the intended consequence—of [Secretary Husted's] reinterpretation [of the law] is to reduce electoral participation within the age cohort in which minority voters are represented in the highest proportions."
"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," Sanders said in a statement, according to ThinkProgress.
Sanders filed the lawsuit along with six 17-year-old Ohioans.
The Fair Elections Legal Network, a national nonpartisan voting rights organization, filed a separate lawsuit against Ohio's secretary of state on Tuesday over the official's interpretation of Ohio elections law.
"The secretary of state’s rule violates Ohio law and will discourage young, first-time voters from exercising their rights by taking away their ability to fully participate in the presidential race," said Jon Sherman, counsel for the Fair Elections Legal Network, in a press statement. "Secretary of State Husted seems to prefer a different rule for 17-year-old primary voters, but he is legally bound to follows the Election Code and the Supreme Court of Ohio’s decisions."