Ohio sued over 17-year-old voters

Ohio’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Jon Husted says he welcomes the lawsuits charging that 17-year-olds should be able to vote to elect officials in Tuesday’s primary election.

On Tuesday, the Bernie Sanders’ campaign filed a lawsuit against Husted, accusing him of creating a law in an effort to block 17-year-olds from voting in the state’s presidential primary next week. Sanders will have to get in line. The Fair Elections Legal Network has already filed a complaint against Husted, saying the most recent version of the Ohio Election Manual violates the state’s Election Code by barring 17-year-olds from voting in the presidential primary.

To set the stage for the case, A 17-year-old can’t vote for a presidential delegate, state or county political party’s central committee, nor on any question or issue, such as a school tax levy, charter amendment or local liquor option.

Scioto County Board of Elections Director Julia Gearheart said the reason 17-year-olds can’t vote for those candidates and issues is that those candidates are actually elected in the primary election and the levies and charters amendments are also binding, which means a 17 year old would actually be electing people and seeing amendments and levies pass, though they are not old enough to elect anyone.

“I welcome this lawsuit and I am very happy to be sued on this issue because the law is crystal clear. We are following the same rules Ohio has operated under in past primaries, under both Democrat and Republican administrations. There is nothing new here,” Husted said. “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 Ohio Democratic Party is applauding the efforts of several groups that are challenging Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision which they said overturns decades of precedent to bar 17-year-olds from voting in the 2016 presidential primary.

“Unfortunately, this is a pattern of behavior from Secretary Husted and Ohio Republicans, as they have attempted over and over again to make it harder for young Ohioans to vote,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “Thanks to the Ohio Democratic Party, Democratic officials and other organizations that have stood up against them, these efforts have failed over and over again. And we are confident that this will be the outcome here as well.”

The Daily Times reached out to the Ohio Supreme Court with a hypothetical question, if a legal issue dealing with an election question comes up prior to the election, are those cases often fast-tracked to the Supreme Court?

“It depends on how the case comes before the court: as an appeal or original action,” Bret Crow, Director of Public Information, said. “If it comes to us as an original action then the Supreme Court Rule of Practice to consult is 12.08. If it comes to us as an appeal from a lower court then a court order must indicate that it will be handled on an expedited basis.”

According to the Supreme Court Rule of Practice 12.08 -“Because of the necessity of a prompt disposition of an original action relating to a pending election, and in order to give the Supreme Court adequate time for full consideration of the case, if the action is filed within ninety days prior to the election, the respondent shall file an answer to the complaint within five days after service of the summons unless otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court, original actions governed by this rule shall proceed as follows:

(a) Relator shall file any evidence and a merit brief in support of the complaint within three days after the filing of the answer or, if no answer is filed, within three days after the answer was due;

(b) Respondent shall file any evidence and a merit brief within three days after the filing of relator’s merit brief;

(c) Relator may file a reply brief within three days after the filing of respondent’s merit brief.

(3) Motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings shall not be filed in expedited election cases.

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By Frank Lewis

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Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.