Updated Mar 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ohio governor says polls will remain closed over coronavirus despite judge's ruling

Mike DeWine

Photo: Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced via Twitter Monday night the state's top health official would order the polls to be closed, hours before voters were due to cast ballots in the presidential primary.

Why it matters: An Ohio judge rejected earlier Monday a request supported by DeWine to postpone in-person voting for Tuesday's state presidential primaries until June 2 over the coronavirus outbreak, per local media.

The ruling: Cleveland.com reports that Franklin County Judge Richard Frye said in denying the request, "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."

What he's saying: DeWine said noted before the judge's decision it's impossible to conform to the CDC's guidelines limiting gatherings of more than 50 people. But Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye said the notice of 12 hours out from polls opening was too late, per Cleveland.com

  • DeWine said he did not have the unilateral power as governor to delay an election unless the state is "invaded," so his government would support a lawsuit filed by at-risk voters in order to make postponement possible. But voters would still be able to request absentee ballots.
  • "We cannot tell people to stay inside, but also tell them to go out and vote," DeWine said. "I'm making this recommendation because we must also look out for our poll workers. I believe when we look back on this, we'll be happy we did this. The votes that have already been cast will still be counted — and this recommendation would allow others to vote in the future."

The big picture: Louisiana was the first state to postpone its primary due to the coronavirus (April 4 to June 20), followed by Georgia (March 24 to May 19). Arizona, Florida and Illinois have said that their primaries on Tuesday will go on as scheduled.

Between the lines: DeWine has consistently been one of the leading voices among governors sounding the alarm over the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. He was the first governor in the country to order the closure of schools, bars and restaurants.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of the judge's ruling.

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