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Ohio governor vows to delay primary vote over coronavirus emergency despite judge’s ruling

Ohio governor vows to delay primary vote over coronavirus emergency despite judge’s ruling
Dueling press reports and statements have created major confusion over the upcoming primary vote in Ohio – where the governor promised to delay the vote over fears of Covid-19, while a judge struck down the request.

On the heels of Governor Mike DeWine’s plea to postpone Tuesday’s vote until early June in hopes of stemming the spread of the coronavirus, a pair of elderly voters – who are most vulnerable to the illness – filed a lawsuit on Monday along the lines of the governor’s recommendation, calling for a restraining order to keep polling places closed. But Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye soon shot down the suit, stating it would set a “terrible precedent” to rewrite the rules a mere 12 hours out from an election.

“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 with 12 [hours] to go to the election,” Frye said in his ruling.

So the application for a temporary restraining order is denied.

The decision was left muddled in some press accounts, however, with CNN initially reporting the primary had indeed been postponed, despite the ruling to the contrary. The glaring error, which reported the exact opposite of the judge’s decision, was later corrected, but not before potentially misleading thousands of readers about the fate of the primary.

Media outlets weren’t the only ones confused about the status of the upcoming vote, with at least one county election board telling poll workers to stay home in an email, apparently taking the governor’s earlier request for a delay as an executive order.

State officials still plan to appeal Frye’s decision, according to Kenneth Henning, a representative for the Ohio secretary of state, though it’s unclear whether enough time remains before Tuesday to secure another ruling.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging against gatherings of more than 10 people as of Monday, the primaries scheduled for Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and Illinois this week would appear to run contrary to that guidance, as thousands will fill cramped polling places to vote.

Ohio has confirmed 50 cases of Covid-19, with no fatalities, among more than 4,500 infections and 81 deaths in the US overall.

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Perhaps fueling even more uncertainty around the primary, DeWine announced in a tweet later on Monday night that, despite the judge’s refusal, the vote would be put off regardless, stating that the director of the Ohio Department of Health, Amy Acton, would “order the polls closed as a health emergency,” while Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will ask the courts to “extend voting options” in the meantime.

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