For Immediate Release
Lawsuit filed against Secretary of State to protect 17-year-old Ohioans’ right to vote in presidential primary
COLUMBUS, OH - A national voting rights organization filed a lawsuit today challenging Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s rule that denies 17-year-old voters the right to vote for presidential delegates in Tuesday’s primary. The Fair Elections Legal Network and Columbus attorney Rachel Bloomekatz, who is joining the law firm Gupta Wessler PLLC, filed the lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of nine plaintiffs.
The lawsuit claims the Secretary of State’s Ohio Election Official Manual violates the Ohio Election Code and asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order, so these voters can exercise their right to vote in the presidential primary. Section 3503.011 of the Ohio Revised Code allows 17-year-olds to vote in the primary election, including presidential primaries, if they will be 18 years old on or before the general election date.
“The General Assembly has explicitly guaranteed 17-year-olds the right to vote in primary elections, including the primary election for president, if they will be 18 by the time of the general election,” said counsel Rachel Bloomekatz. “These students are looking forward to voting in the presidential primary and to having their votes counted. They should be able to exercise this right. We seek to protect it.”
“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. “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.”
The Secretary of State’s website continues to represent to the public that 17-year-olds can vote in the presidential primary if they will be 18 by the general election, which is causing voter confusion statewide. There is still time for the Court to remedy this problem and allow these voters to cast ballots during the early voting period, which is ongoing through Monday, March 14, and on Election Day.
The full complaint filed on March 8, 2016 can be found here.
The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is a national, nonpartisan voting rights, legal support and election reform organization whose mission is to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies. FELN works to improve overall election administration through administrative, legal, and legislative reform as well as provide legal and technical assistance to voter mobilization organizations.