Polls closed in Ohio: How did we get here?
There is no in-person voting today. This state-level decision changed multiple times yesterday. For anyone who is confused, please follow this timeline:
-> During Gov. DeWine’s 2 p.m. news conference on March 16, he recommended that the election be moved to June 2 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Some notes from DeWine’s Twitter account: It is my recommendation that we postpone in-person voting until June 2, 2020.
We cannot tell people to stay inside, but also tell them to go out and vote. 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. A lawsuit will be filed to postpone the election until June 2, 2020. In the meantime, voters would still be able to request absentee ballots. It will be up to a judge to decide if the election will be postponed.
-> Later in the evening (about 7 p.m.), a Franklin County Common Pleas judge ruled that the election could not be moved to that date.
Judge Richard A. Frye said he was uncomfortable making an 11th-hour decision to delay the election, especially since state officials couldn’t say June would be any safer, and since many voters expected the election to occur Tuesday.
-> Then, at about 10:30 p.m. on March 16, we received a directive from the Secretary of State’s office, that the governor and his administration, including the Ohio Health Department director, were closing all polling locations due to a health emergency.
A director’s order from Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton states that ORC 3701.13 allowed her to “make special orders…for preventing the spread of contagious or infective diseases.” With this, she ordered the polling locations in the state of Ohio closed for March 17. The order also states “to conduct an election at this time would force poll workers and voters to face an unacceptable risk of contracting COVID-19.”
Statement from DeWine’s Twitter account: “We’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions over the past few weeks, but everything we’ve done has been about saving lives. If we don’t take these actions now, it’ll be too late. This is quite literally a matter of life and death.”
“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,” DeWine said in a written statement.
Here is the directive from the secretary of state that outlines what actions needed to be taken by county boards of election. This included giving proper notice on websites, social media and at physical polling locations (an example is attached).
Pages 1, 2 and 3 of the health director’s orders.
-> During the early morning hours on March 17, the state Supreme Court allowed the delay in the primary election.
Four of the seven Ohio Supreme Court judges agreed to allow the postponement of the election. Here is a link to that document on the court’s website: https://supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2020/2020-ohio-997.pdf
Given all this, we do not have in-person voting today, and we await further updates from the state now.
Yesterday was a crazy day that presented many challenges. It was a roller coaster emotionally, as local officials watched this decision change several times. All poll workers, elections board members and staff deserved credit for being prepared no matter what. BOE directors Lori Ritzler and Jim Ehrman also deserve kudos for keeping everyone informed as efficiently as they could. Local officials are at the mercy of these state decisions, so everyone had to be prepared for anything while uncertainty loomed.