Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said late Monday the state’s health department will order all polling places not to open for Tuesday’s primary elections to protect voters and poll workers from the coronavirus outbreak.
“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,” DeWine said in a statement.
DeWine’s announcement came after a judge denied a last-minute attempt to postpone the election until later this year. It also raised questions about whether voters will be able to participate in the still-scheduled primary with polling places shuttered, though DeWine, a Republican, said the secretary of state would petition the courts “to extend voting options.”
“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,” he said.
DeWine’s unprecedented order — closing physical polling places because an attempt to postpone the election failed — perplexed even seasoned experts in election law.
“What I find most confusing is whether the governor is purporting to call off the election or not,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California-Irvine. “Saying one is closing polling places is not the same as postponing the election.”
Earlier Monday, a judge in Columbus denied a late push by DeWine, LaRose and voters to delay Tuesday’s primary amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Seems like the governor should get the legislature on an emergency basis to reschedule the primary election. It should never have gotten to this point with this confusion.