A judge blocked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) request to delay Tuesday’s election until June 2 as the coronavirus outbreak shut down everyday life across America, expressing unease with the precedent such an 11-hour decision would set.
“There are too many factors to balance in this unchartered territory to say that we ought to take this away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus 12 hours before the election,” Franklin County Judge Richard Frye said, per the Columbus Dispatch.
Neither DeWine’s office nor that of Secretary of State Frank LaRose immediately confirmed or denied if LaRose would mount an appeal.
Frye also said that he’s seen no medical evidence to suggest that the outbreak will abate by June. “To the contrary, it’s my understanding from the briefings we’ve seen in the national media that it may be months before we get to a point of stability or a peak of the virus and its transmission rates,” he said.
The decision comes hours after the governor gave an address saying it would be impossible to conduct Tuesday’s primary and also stay in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control about containing the virus.
The late Monday decision may throw the logistics of the election into turmoil as well — per a local reporter, some poll workers have already been told not to show up to work.
DeWine, backed up by LaRose, suggested that the in-person voting be delayed until June 2. He recommended that absentee ballot voting be allowed to proceed in the meantime.
In Ohio, the governor can only extend an election in the case of an “invasion,” per DeWine. Only state legislation or a court order had the power to make that change. So, he and LaRose used a lawsuit lodged by two women over 65 who’d be at high risk of serious illness if they contracted COVID-19 as a vehicle to getting the necessary allowance.
As of late Monday evening, the primary is full steam ahead. Polls in Ohio are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET.