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Health chief puts stop to Ohio primary

The decision comes hours after a judge ruled the primary should go on.

Posted: Mar 16, 2020 7:15 PM
Updated: Mar 16, 2020 11:20 PM

UPDATE: Ohio health chief halts primary citing Coronavirus. 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio judge has rejected a request to postpone the state’s primary scheduled for Tuesday.

The governor and others had sought the delay amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge Richard Frye ruled against the motion Monday night because he didn’t want to rewrite the law, The Columbus Disptach reported. The ruling can be appealed.

“There are too many factors to balance in this uncharted territory to say that we ought to take it away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus,” Frye said.

Ohio officials sought a court order to postpone the state’s primary election scheduled for Tuesday, as authorities around the country have moved to prevent large gatherings of people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, both Republicans, backed a lawsuit on Monday by voters who are asking the court to push in-person voting back until June 2 for the primary, which includes battles for presidential and congressional nominations; that would also give anyone casting absentee ballots more time. Neither official has the power to postpone an election on his own.

There have been questions raised about the impact on turnout among both elderly and youth voters, and DeWine said he didn’t want older voters to face the choice of staying home, as recommended, or going out to vote.

“We should not force them to make this choice, the choice between their health and their constitutional rights and their duties as American citizens,” DeWine said.

Most people who come down with COVID-19 have relatively mild symptoms, but it can be deadly for some, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Most people infected with the virus recover in a matter of weeks.

Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden, the former vice president, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are competing for 136 delegates in Ohio, which also has primaries in congressional and and state legislative races, as well as local-issue votes to be decided.

The recommendation could mean polling places will not open Tuesday, despite LaRose’s assurances as recently as Monday morning that voting was ready to go forward.

“Suspending in-person voting is a serious matter, and we have tried to do everything we could to avoid that,” LaRose said. State officials said they had been getting calls from concerned voters and poll workers.

A Democratic candidate in a contested congressional primary expressed support for the move, saying by email that public health must come first.

“As a candidate, changing the date of the election is an unexpected challenge, but it is nothing compared to the importance of community safety and minimizing lives lost,” said Kate Schroder, who is seeking the nomination to challenge 12-term Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, in the Cincinnati area. “I wholeheartedly support Governor DeWine’s recommendation.”

Louisiana and Georgia earlier postponed presidential primaries scheduled for March.

LaRose on Sunday had issued a directive that required all 88 county boards of elections to offer a curbside voting option Tuesday to concerned voters and to accept absentee ballots through most of Election Day.

Absentee ballots would be accepted through the new election date if a judge upholds the state’s request for a delay. That action could come Monday night.

Voting rights advocates had raised issues that the earlier steps weren’t enough.

“As a result of last-minute polling location changes and fears around contracting the coronavirus, an increased number of voters were in need of absentee ballots on very short notice,” representatives of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the civil rights group Demos, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote in a letter to LaRose on Sunday.

The groups said short staffing at county boards, slow postal delivery times and the number of steps needed for a voter to request an absentee ballot were making it “all but impossible” for voters to meet the absentee ballot deadline. Absentee ballot voting has been underway for a month.

They reported that 2,603 combined absentee ballots were requested from Montgomery, Summit and Lucas counties, three of the state’s largest, and only 29 had been returned and designated countable.

A Democrat who is exploring a run for governor in 2022 disagreed with efforts to delay the primary, saying although he believed DeWine was acting for public health, he is concerned about calling off scheduled voting with so little notice.

“I worry that the precedent could haunt future elections by people who are not motivated by the same public good,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said in an email. “I also believe that there is no reason to assume that June 2nd in-person voting won’to be delayed.”

He also urged that absentee ballots be mailed out by LaRose’s office.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
LaGrange312074
Spencer310734
Fountain306553
Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
Franklin229337
Vermillion225850
Rush225530
Parke212020
Tipton205354
Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 80°
Angola
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 79°
Huntington
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 79°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 80°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 82°
Friday is the beginning for a more summer-like forecast, with more heat and humidity returning to the region.
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