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Late Monday, March 16, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the state’s Democratic primary voting set for Tuesday would, in fact, be canceled. DeWine said that public health officials cautioned against holding large-scale events during the coronavirus outbreak.
The decision came shortly after a judge in Ohio initially rejected a lawsuit intended to postpone the state’s primary until June 2. According to the judge, delaying the vote less than a day before it was scheduled to begin would set a “terrible precedent.” Speaking at a press conference after the judge dismissed the case, DeWine said that he lacked the authority to postpone the vote outright.
In the announcement, just hours before the polls were to open, Ohio’s health director Dr. Amy Acton said the move was made “to avoid the imminent threat with a high probability of widespread exposure to COVID-19 with a significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of the people in the general population, including the elderly and people with weakened immune systems and chronic medical conditions.”
Until now, any calls to postpone Democratic primary elections in Illinois, Florida and Arizona, however, have failed. In these states, voting on Tuesday, March 17 is set to go ahead as planned.
Other states forge ahead
In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker said he does not have the authority to change the date of the election and that he does not have the intention of requesting a court to do so. Illinois State Board of Elections spokesperson, Matt Dietrich, suggested voters should not cancel their plans to vote. “We believe that by following guidance from our state and federal health professionals, voters can vote safely,” he said.
Meanwhile in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis made it clear that the state had no intention of holding back election day. “We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re going to vote,” DeSantis said at a press conference.
In Arizona, while voting is set to go ahead, the virus is making an impact. In Maricopa County, the state’s most populous region, 80 polling stations will be shut down after those locations canceled or reported an insufficient number of poll workers to proceed. Residents will still be able to vote at any of the 151 open polling stations, regardless of whether it is the location closest to their place of residence or not.
Georgia and Louisiana postponed
Although not on the ballot this Tuesday, Georgia and Louisiana primaries, originally set for March 24 and April 4, respectively will be postponed. The primary in Georgia is now set for May 19. The Louisiana primary will now take place on June 20.
In response to the postponement in Georgia, party chairwoman and state Senator Nikema Williams said that health was the state’s number one concern. “Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Georgians and to ensure that as many Georgians as possible have an opportunity to vote. Continued in-person voting could compromise both goals.”
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