NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Ohio’s 2020 primary to be postponed, in defiance of state court ruling

In a last-minute deci­sion on Mon­day night, Ohio’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Mike DeWine post­poned his state’s pri­ma­ry elec­tions, in response to the threat of COVID-19 infec­tions at polling sites. DeWine’s deci­sion came in direct defi­ance of a judge’s order issued just a few hours ear­li­er.

While the inter­fer­ence of a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion process appears sus­pect on its face, Gov­er­nor DeWine’s deci­sion was in fact cor­rect and coura­geous. He put his case in sim­ple terms:

“We can’t tell peo­ple it’s in their best inter­ests to stay home and at the same time tell peo­ple to go vote.” The con­tra­dic­tion is glar­ing – states hold­ing a pri­ma­ry on Tues­day are effec­tive­ly ask­ing their cit­i­zens to weigh their civic duty of polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion against their civic duty to main­tain pub­lic health.

Nev­er­the­less, Judge Richard Frye decid­ed on Mon­day evening that it was too late to push back the elec­tion, as the case had not come “in a time­ly man­ner.”

In spite of the obvi­ous dan­gers of let­ting mass­es of peo­ple go to the polls with only a few hours to pre­pare for the poten­tial infec­tion risk, the judge argued that “there is no med­ical evi­dence to sug­gest here today that it would be safer to vote in June.” He went on to argue that as the pan­dem­ic may still be hap­pen­ing in the sum­mer, mov­ing the vote would not make any dif­fer­ence to pub­lic health.

In fact, it could make a lot of dif­fer­ence.

The pan­dem­ic is wors­en­ing at a stag­ger­ing­ly quick pace, and Ohio’s lead­ers need more time to effec­tive­ly imple­ment the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Control’s rec­om­men­da­tions, which include social dis­tanc­ing at poll sites, empha­sis on mail-in bal­lots, and dis­in­fect­ing vot­ing machines. Going ahead with the pri­ma­ry on Tues­day would guar­an­tee con­fu­sion at polling sites across the state. Hold­ing the pri­ma­ry in June instead would give every­one a bet­ter chance to par­tic­i­pate.

Ohio was not the only state set to vote on Tues­day.

Offi­cials in Illi­nois, Ari­zona and Flori­da have com­mit­ted to mov­ing ahead with nom­i­nat­ing events  – despite the fact that Flori­da already has over one hun­dred and fifty con­firmed cas­es (with five fatal­i­ties), and Illi­nois over one hun­dred.

Some states, how­ev­er, have already moved to post­pone. Louisiana and Geor­gia have pushed their pri­maries back months, with Ken­tucky fol­low­ing suit on Mon­day evening. Hope­ful­ly, oth­er upcom­ing states will take the respon­si­ble deci­sions that ensure that their cit­i­zens are not unnec­es­sar­i­ly exposed to health risks.

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