Ohio Judge Defies Governor, Orders Primary Election to go Forward
In Ohio, a Franklin County judge has ordered the March 17 Primary Election to be held despite the governor’s call to postpone it in the face of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the country, including Ohio.
Common Pleas County Court Judge Richard Frye said in a Monday decision that cancelling or delaying this election would set a “terrible precedent” for any judge to tinker with any future election dates and rules, especially in this case when only twelve hours are left before it takes place, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Judge Frye handed down his order only hours after both Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) and Secretary of State Frank La Rose called for the delay as a matter of abundant caution while the nation, the state and indeed the entire planet attempts to grapple with this still raging, uncontained coronavirus outbreak. The governor’s office had filed a suit seeking confirmation of his announcement/determination in Franklin County, Ohio.
The governor does not have the power to change election protocols without a court order. But! Because he, apparently, assumed his announcement would be perfunctorily confirmed by the judge, poll workers throughout Ohio had been told not to appear for the election, which was (now is) set to begin at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday. Thus, the judge’s ruling has thrown a giant monkey wrench into the governor’s plans, and has placed the election back on track, according to the Columbus newspaper and TheHill.com.
From the Ohio Deopartment of Health:
Other state officials, including Ohio Department of Aging Director Judith Brachman, have agreed with the governor. She worries that conducting the election will place Ohio’s older population in jeopardy and force them to decide between their health and their right to vote.
“I’m concerned about other older adults. I don’t want others to have a problem based on their wanting to go vote and potentially getting exposed to something,” she said, according to the Dispatch.
Indeed, health professionals, both in and out of government, have consistently warned older Americans and anyone with underlying health conditions to stay out of public places in order to avoid contracting or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) . Why? Because they have also noted that coronavirus is much more likely to cause serious illness or even death in these demographics.
After the governor’s call for a delay, a candidate in the Republican primary for Wood County Common Pleas Court, Corey Speweik, challenged the delay, labeling it a “judicial fiat” in a lawsuit filed in the Ohio Supreme Court before Judge Frey’s ruling. That Court had not acted on the case as of this writing, according to the newspaper.
Three other states had scheduled elections for March 17 — Arizona, Florida and Illinois. Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky have postponed their upcoming elections in light of the outbreak.
The Illinois Primary Election is still set to take place tomorrow (March 17). I was all set to serve as an election judge in a polling place just across the street from my apartment building here in Chicago. Three days ago, I called downtown to the Chicago Board of Elections and had them remove me from their list of judges — for fear of catching this terrible disease.
You see, I fit snugly right in the middle of that “demographic” as a so-called “senior citizen” — although I like to think of myself as a “seasoned” citizen rather than a “senior” citizen. As my mother used to teach me and my siblings, “Never ask for trouble.”
In The Future…
The answer to this problem for future elections is really quite simple: Eliminate altogether in-person voting. Voting by mail or absentee ballot or through the Internet solves all of these issues. It also would go a long way toward eliminating voter suppression. After all, three states — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — already conduct their elections completely by mail. And, as an extra added bonus, turnout in each of those states is much higher than the national average.
Oh, and by the way, I voted by mail here in Illinois three weeks ago.