Effect of COVID-19 on Ohio primaries

Grace Scarberry, Reporter

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine postponed Ohio’s Primary Election on March 16, which was previously scheduled to take place on March 17.

Ohio was among nine other states and territories who postponed their primary voting due to the outbreak.

“During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” DeWine said in a statement he posted on Twitter. 

Just 12 hours before the polls opened, DeWine tried to postpone the election, but a Franklin County judge ruled against it. 

A lawsuit was filed by Franklin County residents after feeling forced to choose between their health and the election, but the judge refused an order to delay the vote. 

DeWine could not single handedly postpone the election, so the highest ranking health official, Dr. Amy Acton, ordered the polls be closed and Secretary of State, Frank Lacrose, sought a way through the court system to make voting options available to residents.  

Ashland County residents are worried this may have a negative effect on voting. 

“I believe that the call to delay the primary election will drastically reduce voter turnout, largely due to the confusion involved,” Loudonville Councilman Matt Young said. 

Karen DeSanto Kellogg, Ashland County Juvenile and Probate Judge candidate, provided her insight on how the virus will affect local voting.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity overall to challenge ourselves to remain connected with our community. I, as a candidate, am continuing to campaign to get my message out and remain connected,” she said in an email interview. 

At this time she is unsure if the delay will cause more people to come out at a later time or cause them to stay home as their priorities have shifted to meet the immediate needs of living. 

However, she believes that this race is so central to the Ashland community, that voters will continue to remain interested. 

“While Dr. Acton closed the polls for March 17, it remains to be seen what the rest of the 2020 primary is going to look like. It is unknown if we will have paper only ballots or in person voting or a combination,” Kellogg said. “It is unknown if the votes that were cast already will remain and be counted or be set aside, with everyone casting or re-casting their votes.” 

Voting has been moved to June 2, but in the meantime, Ohio residents can still request absentee ballots.