- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Ohio Supreme Court overnight Tuesday turned aside a challenge that sought to keep some polls open for the state’s March 17 elections, after the state’s director of public health ordered them closed in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Corey Speweik, who is running for a seat on the Wood County Court of Common Pleas. It argues that changing the primary date would violate the “bedrock separation of powers” in the state constitution and that it would cause “chaos” for independent candidates.

The decision, agreed to by four of the seven justices, simply read “writ denied.” Mr. Speweik had tried to get the court to compel Secretary of State Frank LaRose to hold the Wood County primary on March 17.

In response, lawyers for the state said Mr. LaRose has no “clear legal duty” to heed the request and pointed out that Amy Acton, who heads the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order requiring that polls be closed on March 17.

“The Secretary will not violate a clear legal duty by complying with an order from Ohio’s Health Director during a pandemic,” they said.

Gov. Mike DeWine said late Monday that the polls would be closed due to a “health emergency,” capping a madcap day after a Franklin County judge had denied a request to push back in-person voting in Ohio just hours earlier.

The complaint had cited comments from Mr. DeWine and Mr. LaRose at a Monday press conference where they had pushed for a delay in in-person voting. Those comments came before Franklin County Judge Richard Frye’s ruling and before Dr. Acton ordered the polls closed late Monday.

Mr. DeWine and Mr. LaRose said people shouldn’t be forced to choose between protecting their health and exercising their constitutional right to vote in light of the expanding coronavirus epidemic.

“It was simply untenable for us to continue telling Ohioans to go to the polls,” Mr. LaRose said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.”

Mr. LaRose issued a directive to county boards of elections saying that the presidential primary is suspended until June 2.

The directive says that boards of elections are to remain open on March 17 through 7:30 p.m. to receive any absentee ballots, but that they’re prohibited from tabulating and reporting any results until the close of polls on June 2.

Asked what happens if things aren’t better by June 2, Mr. LaRose said: “That’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when we get to it.”

Three other states are proceeding with their presidential primaries on Tuesday: Arizona, Florida and Illinois.

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