Ohio Postpones Primary Election Just Hours Before Polls Were Set to Open

Ohio postponed its Tuesday primary election on Tuesday March 17, 2020, just hours before polls were set to open.

Early Tuesday morning, the state Supreme Court denied a judge’s attempt to let the primary continue after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked the court to delay the primary until June 2, 2020 because of the state’s growing number of coronavirus global pandemic cases and Social Distancing recommendations.

Late Monday evening, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine attempted to bypass the judge by announcing that Ohio Health Director Amy Acton would order the polls closed as a health emergency.

Three other states — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — are still holding primaries on Tuesday, but Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky and now Ohio have postponed the primary elections. New York also postponed today’s village elections to coincide with their April 28 primary election.

During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus.

— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

Secretary of State Frank LaRose had issued guidance to all county boards of elections in Ohio on Monday that they “must post notice on their websites, social media, at the board of elections, and at polling places that in-person voting for the March 17, 2020 Presidential Primary Election is suspended.”

In a joint statement, DeWine and LaRose said Monday, March 13, 2020 that the public health warnings to limit gatherings means “it simply isn’t possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans.”

The League of Women Voters and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also supported the decision, including t.

Unlike many states, Ohio’s governor and secretary of state don’t have the power to delay the election on their own. Instead, with the approval of both political parties, the governor and secretary of state supported a lawsuit filed by people who believe they’re vulnerable to the virus and did not plan to contest the suit.

“People should not have to choose between their rights and their health.”

— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

Unlike Ohio, Kentucky state law allows the secretary of state and governor to jointly decide to change the date of an election due to a declared state of emergency.

In a statement on Monday, LaRose said the sudden announcement less than 24 hours before the election was made after “new information” about the virus led the Ohio Department of Health to recommend that all Ohioans age 65 and older self-quarantine.

Under the plan he is proposing, absentee voting would be allowed to continue until June 2, and all votes that have already been cast would be counted as normal.

President Trump said Monday that he thought postponing the primaries was “unnecessary” but also said the decision was ultimately up to the respective states.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign official (Kate Bedingfield) said in a statement, “We will follow the guidance offered by state public health officials for how to best ensure that their populations are looked after while encouraging participation in our democracy.”



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