Ohio Primary Election Called Off, Despite Judge’s Ruling

March 17, 2020 by Dan McCue
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addresses members of the media during a press conference updating the public on COVID-19 on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Doral Chenoweth III/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

After hours of confusion the Ohio primary scheduled to be held Tuesday has been canceled by order of the state Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton.

Acton’s decision, announced shortly after 10 p.m. Monday night, capped a seven-hour period when it appeared the election was off, then back on, and then off again.

It all began Monday afternoon, when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he would support a lawsuit intended to delay the state’s impending presidential primary until June due to concerns over the coronavirus.

During a televised news conference, the Republican governor said the day-long in-person voting scheduled to begin Tuesday morning would put Ohio voters and tens of thousands of poll workers at risk.

Specifically, he said there was no way to carry out the vote and comply with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday that recommended gatherings be kept smaller than 50 people.

“We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to these guidelines,” DeWine said.

Referring to the state’s voters, he added, “We should not force them to make this choice, the choice between their health and their constitutional rights and duties.”

By law, DeWine could not unilaterally shut down elections. That’s why he said he was supporting a lawsuit filed in Franklin County, Ohio, seeking to delay the vote until June 2.

The lawsuit names Secretary of State Frank LaRose as the defendant.

Speaking at the same news conference as the governor, LaRose said he would direct Attorney General Dave Yost not to contest it. He also said he would submit a detailed proposal to the court seeking permission to delay the election, and to conduct as much of the election as possible by mail.

But then Judge Richard Frye, presiding in Franklin County, Ohio’s Court of Common Pleas, threw the governor and state election officials a curve by denying their bid to postpone the election.

Judge Frye said it would set a “terrible precedent” for a judge to step in 12 hours before polls open to rewrite the Ohio election code.

The state immediately appealed the judge’s ruling to the 10th U.S. District Court of Appeals, which has yet to weigh in on the controversy.

The governor and state election officials then turned to the health director, who under the law has enormous powers during a health crisis.

Whether those powers extend to shutting down an election is expected to be tested in a series of court challenges filed later today.

Also likely to be litigated are requests for additional days for absentee balloting and moving the election to a date other than June 2.

In a statement announcing the health director’s decision, Gov. DeWine said, “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 a unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus.”

“While the polls will be closed tomorrow, Secretary of State Frank LaRose will seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity,” the governor said.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s canceled primary, Ohio had already been struggling to cope with holding an election in the age of the coronavirus. Traditionally most poll workers are retirees, and older individuals are also considered most at risk from the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, county election officials across the state were struggling to train younger volunteers to take their place.

Adding to the chaotic situation, many poll workers across the state had been prematurely told to stop setting up polling places Monday night and not to come in Tuesday because the election already had been delayed – when it hadn’t.

Just last week, LaRose issued a joint statement with election officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, that said they were confident voters in their states could safely and securely cast their ballots on Tuesday, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties as well.

State News

Trump Flips, Now Encourages Michigan Residents to Vote Absentee
2020 Elections
Trump Flips, Now Encourages Michigan Residents to Vote Absentee

DETROIT — In an about face on mail-in voting in Michigan, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday to encourage voters to request absentee ballots and vote early. Trump’s latest messaging on mail-in voting marks a mercurial swing from May, when the president threatened to withhold... Read More

In The Battleground State of Michigan, Long Memories, New Dynamics
2020 Elections
In The Battleground State of Michigan, Long Memories, New Dynamics
September 19, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The hallmark of a true battleground state is that any one of a variety of factors can come into play and make a sure bet in the weeks leading up to the vote an “also ran” on election night. In that respect Michigan in... Read More

Bloomberg Makes Initial Ad Buy in Florida
2020 Elections
Bloomberg Makes Initial Ad Buy in Florida

WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg is starting to put his money where his mouth is. Aides to the Democratic billionaire said Thursday that Bloomberg will spend $5.4 million on a weeklong TV ad campaign in Florida, part of his pledge to help Joe Biden win the all-important... Read More

Biden Says Trump ‘Only Cares About the Stock Market’ in Town Hall Meeting
2020 Elections
Biden Says Trump ‘Only Cares About the Stock Market’ in Town Hall Meeting

PHILADELPHIA — Joe Biden railed against President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and framed the 2020 election as a choice between Main Street and Wall Street during an outdoor town hall meeting Thursday just outside his childhood hometown of Scranton. The former vice president,... Read More

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tosses Green Party Off State Ballot
State News
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tosses Green Party Off State Ballot
September 17, 2020
by Dan McCue

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Things aren't exactly coming up roses for the Green Party and its presidential nominee, Howie Hawkins. For the second time this week a state supreme court has denied the party's bid for inclusion among the contenders on the November 2020 ballot. On Thursday,... Read More

Florida Senators Pitch Daylight Saving Time Pause
Congress
Florida Senators Pitch Daylight Saving Time Pause

WASHINGTON — Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott want to make sure there is plenty of time for wasting away again in Margaritaville in the sunlight this winter. If they get their way, revelers in Key West, Florida, where Jimmy Buffett and the Coral... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top