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Ohio governor orders polling locations close for Tuesday's primary over coronavirus fears

Coronavirus takes center stage at Dem debate
Coronavirus takes center stage at Dem debate 01:59

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Monday night polls will be closed Tuesday to prevent in-person voting for the state's scheduled Democratic presidential primary. The governor made the announcement after a judge denied his request to postpone the primary.

"Health Director Dr. Amy Acton will order the polls closed as a health emergency," DeWine said in a statement. "While the polls will be closed tomorrow, Secretary of State Frank LaRose will seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity."

Following the governor's announcement, the Wood County Board of Elections said on Twitter, "Per Ohio Secretary of State Directive 2020-06 the Presidential Primary Election for March 17, 2020 has been postponed to June 2, 2020. Polls will not be open tomorrow." 

The Franklin County Board of Elections also said it would, "abide by this order and will work at the guidance of the Ohio Secretary of State following the latest Directive released this evening." The Franklin County BOE oversees voting in Columbus, Ohio.

Prior to the announcement, a judge on Monday evening denied the Ohio governor's request for a temporary restraining order to move the state's primary election from Tuesday to early June. Judge Richard Frye said postponing the primary would set a "terrible precedent."

Frye noted there was "no medical evidence here today" to show that the health risk to voters would be any better on either of the proposed new election dates: April 28 and June 2. 

"There are too many factors to balance in this uncharted territory to say that we ought to take it away from the legislature and the elected statewide officials and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus with 12 hours to go until the election," Frye said. "So the application for a temporary restraining order is denied."  

DeWine announced earlier Monday that he would try to have the state's in-person voting moved from Tuesday, March 17, to June 2 to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations that older and at-risk Americans stay home to avoid contracting coronavirus.

"We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to [CDC] guidelines," DeWine said at a press conference.

"We should not be in a situation where the votes of these individuals who are conflicted are suppressed," he said. "It is therefore my recommendation after talking with the secretary of state, talking with the attorney general, talking with the lieutenant governor, that voting be extended until June 2, that no in-person voting occur today, but rather in-person voting occur on June 2, but between now and then that absentee ballot voting be permitted."

DeWine lacked the unilateral authority to move the election date, so a group of individuals in the high-risk group filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Court with the hope that a judge would move the date.

"We cannot tell people to stay inside, but also tell them to go out and vote," DeWine wrote on Twitter Monday. "I believe when we look back on this, we'll be happy we did this."

DeWine also announced Monday that gyms, recreation centers, movie theaters, indoor water parks and trampoline parks across the state will be closed until further notice. 

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