Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is leading an effort to push back the state’s primary election to June 2.
Election Day was scheduled for Tuesday, March 17. DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose had sought to maintain voting on Tuesday, but escalating concerns related to Covid-19 led them to seek a move.
The hope is to extend mail-in balloting over the next few months and host an in-person Election Day in June.
DeWine announced the change at a Monday afternoon news conference. He said his office does not have the power to unilaterally change the voting date, but the governor outlined a process involving the courts that can allow for this change.
Officials said that, if the plan is approved, all Ohioans would be allowed to cast mail-in ballots in the coming months.
Those who have already cast early voting and absentee ballots will not have to vote again. Their votes are “frozen” in place, DeWine said, and they will be counted when the election is eventually held.
This change reflects a dramatic shift from earlier days in which DeWine and LaRose had committed to holding the election even as schools and restaurants were ordered to close. Even on Sunday night, LaRose sent a directive to county boards of election to allow “curbside voting” for citizens unwilling to enter their polling locations on Election Day.
By Monday afternoon, though, it became clear Ohio faced a number of challenges that would have greatly affected voter turnout on Tuesday. These challenges included:
- More than 150 polling places were to be relocated for Tuesday’s election. This is because the original spots were located inside nursing homes and other areas with vulnerable populations.
- Ohio’s K-12 schools were set to close after Monday for three weeks. Tuesday would mark the first day off from school, with many parents and guardians potentially kept from the polls while determining childcare plans.
- Just about every college and university campus in Ohio has closed. Students are either being told to leave campus, or were already gone for spring break and are asked not to return. These students, potentially hours or more away from their proper voting location, would have been forced to cast provisional ballots.
- Many county board of elections had been recruiting new pollworkers up until Monday morning. In Delaware County, elections officials sought new pollworkers for the following day and even offered “on-the-job training.” With so many older pollworkers opting to stay home, it was becoming more and more untenable for boards of elections to adequately conduct an election.
DeWine said it was important the state government do what it could to prevent a situation where Ohioans, affected by the public health crisis, chose not to vote.
Asked why the June 2 date was chosen, DeWine and LaRose said this is because 2020 is a presidential election year. The voters have to select delegates for the political parties’ national conventions. The Democrats are set to meet in Milwaukee in mid-July, with the Republicans convention set for August in North Carolina.
“Safer would have been September,” DeWine said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.