Sen. Bernie Sanders notched a potentially significant win on Friday evening when an Ohio judge issued an order, allowing 17-year-old voters to participate in the state’s presidential primary on Tuesday. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye ruled that 17-year-old voters who turn 18 by the day of the November election can vote in the primary, though not on ballot issues or for any contests that would actually elect someone to office.
The ruling trumps a recent move by Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, to block 17-year-old voters in the state from participating on election day, on the grounds that the teens would be voting for delegates, not nominating candidates directly. In December, Husted revised the state’s election manual, which previously allowed the practice. Frye’s ruling came in response to a suit by nine 17-year-old registered Ohio voters, who disputed Husted’s interpretation of the law.
The ruling is a victory for Sanders’ campaign, which separately filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against Husted’s order. The Sanders campaign accused Husted in the suit — which was put on hold Friday by a federal judge — of trying to stop younger voters from exercising their democratic rights.
“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,” Bernie Sanders said.
Sanders campaign attorney Brad Deutsch said the ruling was a major victory.
“This is a huge victory for 17-year-olds across Ohio. Their votes for presidential nominees will now count when they vote on either Tuesday or over the weekend in early voting,” Deutch said in a statement.
Husted blasted the ruling and said he would appeal.
“This last-minute legislating from the bench on election law has to stop,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “Our system cannot give one county court the power to change 30 years of election law for the entire state of Ohio, 23 days into early voting and only four days before an election.”
Younger voters have rallied to Sanders’ idealistic message, helping deliver victories over his rival Hillary Clinton in a number of close primaries.