At least 60 17-year-olds voted illegally across Wisconsin, a key presidential battleground state, during last spring’s primary—under the mistaken impression they could cast ballots if they turned 18 before Election Day in November.
As a recap, Sen. Ted Cruz won the Republican primary in Wisconsin, while Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic vote.
“Our information is that, in a lot of these cases, the students believed that the law in Wisconsin allowed them to vote,” Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Elections Commission, told WPR. The body overseeing the state elections didn’t see similar instances of teenage voter irregularities in the 2012 or 2008 presidential elections or their respective primaries.
“It wasn’t a case of anyone sneaking in,” Magney told AP. “It was a misunderstanding of the law.”
Wisconsin election officials on Tuesday blamed Sen. Sanders’ social media posts and untrained poll workers for the dozens of incidents, AP reported.
Sanders’s national campaign blurred the lines in states’ laws, Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen said, adding that “the candidate has to have responsibility for those errors.”
Some states allow 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by Election Day to vote in their primaries, but Wisconsin does not.
“It’s your obligation to tell your campaign people and the voters what the rules are in your jurisdiction,” Thomsen added. “You can just sit in D.C. and say here it is. I would hate to see youthful exuberance end up in criminal prosecution.”
Neither Sanders or his campaign have made public comments on the allegation.
Some prosecutors chose not to charge any of the 17-year-olds who voted, AP reported.