Ohio Governor Recommends That In-Person Primary Voting Be Postponed

Governor Mike DeWine. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
March 16, 2020 3:23 p.m.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Monday that he is recommending that in-person voting in the state’s primary — scheduled for Tuesday, March 17 — be postponed until June 2.

DeWine announced his recommendation from the statehouse in Columbus Monday afternoon. He recommended that absentee voting be allowed until the in-person vote in June.

Precautions around the coronavirus outbreak made in-person voting in Tuesday’s primary untenable, DeWine said.

“It is clear that tomorrow’s in person voting does not conform and cannot conform with these CDC guidelines,” he said after reading out precautions. “We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to these guidelines.”

He said that after consultation with the Secretary of State, Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, he’d decided to recommend the delay.

“I do not have the power to extend an election as I am suggesting,” DeWine said. State law only allows Ohio’s governor to alter an election date in the case of an invasion, DeWine said.

The vehicle by which he seeks to impose the election change is a lawsuit to be filed in common pleas court in Franklin County Monday by voters either too old or too sick to vote safely amid the outbreak. A judge will ultimately decide whether or not to postpone the election.

In a press release following the governor’s announcement, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose also recommended a suspension of in-person voting, adding that the shift must be enacted by either the state legislature or through legal order.

DeWine spoke of receiving calls from across the state from people who feel “conflicted” about voting due to their advanced age, or underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.

“We should not force them to make this choice: a choice between their health and their constitutional rights and duties as American citizens,” he added.

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