Ohio governor calls for delaying Tuesday's primary until June

Ohio governor calls for delaying Tuesday's primary until June
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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Monday backed a lawsuit aiming to delay the state's presidential primary until June because of the growing threat of the coronavirus, but a state judge rejected the move, ordering the Tuesday vote to go forward.

DeWine said the 13 hours of in-person voting would put Ohio voters and the estimated 35,000 poll workers who will staff polling places at risk. He pointed to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommend gatherings be kept smaller than 50 people.

"We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to these guidelines," DeWine said. The state has urged those over 65 to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. "We should not force them to make this choice, the choice between their health and their constitutional rights and duties."

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However, on Monday evening, a Franklin County judge denied the state's motion, arguing it would set a "terrible precedent," making it appear for a time that the primary would take place after all.

The governor then said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, would order that all polls remain closed and Secretary of State Frank LaRose would then seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options to Ohio residents.

DeWine does not have the power to delay elections unilaterally except in the case of invasion.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) said state officials had spoken with the heads of the Ohio Democratic and Republican parties about the decision.

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DeWine has taken some of the most aggressive steps of any governor in hopes of blunting the worst of the coronavirus. He said Sunday that bars, restaurants and gyms would be shuttered.

Ohio has reported 50 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus. State officials say there are likely thousands more cases that have not yet been diagnosed.

"We know that's the tip of the iceberg," said Amy Acton, the director of Ohio's health department.

Arizona, Florida and Illinois are also scheduled to hold their primaries on Tuesday.

—Updated at 7:59 p.m.