As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday that his state should postpone its Tuesday primary until early June.
Ohio’s primary is set to take place Tuesday alongside contests in Illinois, Arizona and Florida.
“It is my recommendation that we postpone in-person voting until June 2, 2020,” DeWine tweeted. “We cannot tell people to stay inside, but also tell them to go out and vote.”
“I’m making this recommendation because we must also look out for our poll workers,” he continued. “I believe when we look back on this, we’ll be happy we did this. The votes that have already been cast will still be counted – and this recommendation would allow others to vote in the future.”
DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced they are filing a joint lawsuit Monday afternoon in order to get the election postponed.
“Because the authority to shift election day does not reside with the Ohio Secretary of State, this change must be enacted by either a legal order or an act of the state legislature,” LaRose’s office said in a statement, adding, “If a judge were to order the primary election should not be held on March 17, Secretary LaRose is prepared to recommend moving election day to June 2.”
The Ohio secretary of state’s office said all voters who have already cast early ballots or voted by mail will still have their ballots count, whether or not the election is delayed.
Meanwhile, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee told reporters her state’s Tuesday elections will go on as scheduled. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended that choice, saying, “We’re dealing with this in a thoughtful way but we’re not going to panic.”
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“When you go and cancel that, the signal that sends is somehow we’re paralyzed and I don’t think that’s the case,” DeSantis said.
Ohio’s move comes as other states have delayed primaries and state party conventions, sports leagues have suspended competitions and bars, restaurants, schools and other entities have been ordered closed.
Further down the calendar, the current schedule for the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions this summer has come under question, as no clear timeline on the crisis exists. President Donald Trump said Monday that the outbreak could be contained by July, August, or potentially later in the year.
Asked about the possibility of postponing elections, Trump told reporters he thought such measures were “unnecessary.”
“I’d leave that up to the states, that’s a big deal postponing an election,” he said.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said in a statement that he supported the recommendation to postpone the primary.
“Extending an election is an unprecedented step, so we as a party are weighing alternatives on how to best do so — including the possibility to conduct the primary election entirely by vote-by-mail, as is done in several other states, with a deadline much earlier than June 2,” Pepper said. “This could better serve the interests of Ohio voters and the primary process that is already well underway, and we will consider offering those alternatives to the court once the case is filed.”
Soon after the push from Ohio leaders, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections said the state was moving forward with its Tuesday vote.
“As already noted, much of the voting for this election already has been done,” the spokesman said. “Also, at this point there is no date in the foreseeable future when we can expect greater safety with any certainty. Taking action to move to an all-mail ballot system, as has been suggested by some media members, fails to take into account the needs of many disabled voters who are unable to cast paper ballots by mail.”
Later Monday, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams announced his state’s primaries would be pushed back from May 19 to June 23.
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On Sunday, former Vice President Joe Biden asked voters in the four primary states scheduled to weigh in this week to “please vote.” At the time, all four states had already announced that the elections would go on as planned, but with added precautions taken.
In a joint statement Friday, the secretaries of state for those states said those precautions included moving polling locations out of retirement homes and nursing facilities to protect older residents.
“Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration,” the officials said.
“Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” they continued.
The election officials asked those who did not feel well to stay away from the polls. Residents, they said, should vote early or cast ballots by mail if possible.
DeWine had told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that his state was “going to go ahead” with the election, advising voters then to “be careful.”