Ohio judge rules in favor of 17-year-olds wanting to vote

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Some Ohio Teens Are Fighting for Their Right to Vote in the Primary

CLEVELAND, March 11 (Reuters) - An Ohio state judge ruled that teenagers celebrating their 18th birthday before November's general election are entitled to have their votes for presidential nominees counted in next week's state primary.

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"Plaintiffs are entitled to a judgment that the secretary abused his discretion," Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye said in his ruling about Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Husted said he would appeal the decision.

"This last-minute legislating from the bench on election law has to stop," he said in a statement. "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.

"We will appeal this decision because if there is a close election on Tuesday we need clarity from the Supreme Court to make sure that ineligible voters don't determine the outcome of an election," he added.

Related: Hillary Clinton rallies in Ohio:

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Ohio judge rules in favor of 17-year-olds wanting to vote
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Former President Bill Clinton greets attendees as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Former President Bill Clinton, center left, has pictures taken with attendees as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at the Ohio Education Association in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Former Columbus, Ohio Mayor Michael B. Coleman listens as former President Bill Clinton speaks while campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Attendees take cell phone photos of President Bill Clinton as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton reacts after being introduced before speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Supporters cheer as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Supporters watch as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A man holds up an iPad to get a photo of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton shakes hands with supporters after speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton steps to the podium to speak during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
An attendee wears a sticker on her cheek while waiting to hear Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stands for a photograph with an attendee during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a button in support of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, shakes hands with attendants while arriving to speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a gym full of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she speaks in a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An American flag is seen in the jacket pocket of an attendee during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters wait at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters pledge allegiance at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters wait at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to primary results just before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she speaks in a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters pledge allegiance at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An attendee waits for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, scored an upset win over Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary, overcoming the double-digit lead she held in polls ahead of the vote and proving he can win in a diverse industrial state. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a gym full of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 8: Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Recreation Center on the campus of the Cuyahoga Community College, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is campaigning in Ohio ahead of the primary on March 15. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)
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Nine teenagers from across the state claimed in a lawsuit filed in the court this week that Husted's interpretation of state law that eliminated their voting rights was incorrect.

The judge said his decision affected "potentially thousands of other 17-year-old voters still eager to participate at next week's primary election." He said no secretary of state between 1981 and 2012 had ever adopted the reading of state law he was now overturning.

Husted in December modified the state's election manual to say that 17-year-olds are allowed only to nominate candidates for a general election but are prohibited from voting for presidential delegates because they are elected, not nominated, according to the suit.

The teenagers argued Husted's interpretation contradicts state law and a previous ruling by the state Supreme Court that allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election to vote in presidential primaries.

The attorney for the teenagers said they were galvanized when they heard their votes would not count. "It has caused them to think about their voting rights and get more engaged in the process," Rachel Bloomekatz said.

A similar lawsuit filed in federal court by the campaign of Democrat presidential contender Bernie Sanders was halted on Friday when U.S. District Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers stayed the matter until the state court finding.

In the Ohio primary, 66 delegates are at stake for the Republicans and 159 for the Democrats.

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