In defiance of recommendations from Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Franklin County judge has ruled that postponing Ohio's primary elections 12 hours before polls are set to open would set a "terrible precedent." The primaries, which appeared to be called off this afternoon, are now back on.
(Bear in mind that everything you're reading — and everything you may read as you're glued to social media all night — is subject to change. Attorneys are reportedly working on an emergency appeal, so the news may flip again before morning. With any luck, you've already voted by mail.)
Judge Richard Frye's legal justification has some merit in the abstract, but the upshot is utter confusion across the state in the midst of a global pandemic. DeWine and LaRose made the decision to postpone and extend the election, obviously, in light of the novel Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. They said it would be irresponsible to make people choose between their own health and their civic duty. They said they would file a lawsuit later this afternoon because they did not have the legal authority to call off the election.
Everything frankly seemed all set. Getting a judge to sign off the recommendation sounded like a formality, like it had probably been worked out behind the scenes ahead of time. When asked at the press conference why a decision wasn't made earlier, DeWine referenced the nature of the information they'd been receiving. It was all evolving rapidly, he said.
But Tuesday's election has now been thrown into disarray. Local boards of elections have been notifying poll workers for hours that the primaries are off.
Judge Frye's decision means that poll workers, many of whom are senior citizens who have been urged to self-quarantine, will now have to be informed of the new plans, which may change yet again!
It's superfluous to mention that Frye's decision will also create the situation DeWine hoped to prevent in the first place: the one where Ohioans have to choose between their physical health and their civic duty.
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