If you're an Ohio voter, don't try to show up to the polls today.

Basically, Ohio is a shitshow.

Last week, Republican Governor Mike DeWine set a national precedent by working fast to ban large events, close Ohio public schools, and stop in-person classes at Ohio's public universities. Over the weekend, he ordered the state's bars and restaurants closed. But DeWine stalled on making a decision about whether or not today's primary should happen as planned.

Late Monday, DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose had still taken no public action to delay the vote. But at their daily press conference with updates on COVID-19, the pair announced their plan to go to court to seek a delay of the election. Assuming the court would rule in favor of the state, county boards of election around Ohio told poll workers not to come to work on Tuesday.

Then, a little after 7 p.m., Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye refused to issue a temporary restraining order delaying the election, saying it would set a "terrible precedent" and elaborating:

"There are too many factors to balance in this uncharted territory to say we ought to take away from the legislature and elected statewide officials and throw it to a common pleas judge in Columbus with 12 hours to go until the election[.]"

So it seemed the primary would go on as scheduled.

And that's when the real fun started.


Rather than attempt to file an emergency appeal or impanel an emergency session of the legislature, DeWine and LaRose decided to YOLO and postpone the election anyway, in what appeared to be direct contravention to the court order. Just after 9 p.m., the two issued a joint statement regarding their intent to ignore the court order and postpone the election anyway, saying "it simply [wasn't] possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans."

In another statement, issued after 10 p.m., DeWine and LaRose said that holding the election would put poll workers at an "unacceptable" risk of contracting coronavirus and announced that Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton would issue an order closing the polls.

Just before 11 p.m., the order was released.

But wait, there's more!

Not all Ohioans were pleased with the state's decision to seemingly flout the court order.

Jon Cross, a Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives, took to Twitter to announce his intent to go to polling locations in his district with police to ensure they would be open on Tuesday.

He does not appear to have followed through on this promise.

And the fun doesn't stop there!

Corey Speweik, a judicial candidate in Wood County, filed a suit with the Supreme Court, asking it to compel the state to hold the election as originally planned.

The court ordered the state to respond by 1:30 a.m. Yeah, just a few hours before polls were originally set to open.

At this point, we should also note that the man who filed the emergency suit appears to, umm, not be so much a fan of things like "facts" and "science." The complaint refers to the COVID-19 outbreak as the "so-called 'Coronavirus.'"

So that's cute.

The parties went back and forth and eventually the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the attempt to have the election go forward as planned in an unwritten order. The unwritten order from the state supreme court was solely a rejection of the judicial candidate's last-minute complaint and did not overrule Judge Frye's earlier ruling that the election must go forward.

The state never filed an emergency appeal to Judge Frye's rejection of its request to move the date, so presumably (??? We don't know! It's a shitshow!) that order still stands — and the state is just closing its eyes, coverings its ears, and screaming "LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

So look. It's probably the right thing that this primary was postponed. One of the most important things we can do right now is try to flatten the curve and spread the infections out over time. Elections are prime opportunities for the virus to spread, with people waiting in lines, interacting with poll workers, and using the same pens, tables, and touch-screens. But the way this went down was a complete disaster.

DeWine had ample time last week to file a suit before the very last minute. Ohio had plenty of time for the legislature to convene a special session and officially change the primary date and allow time for mail-in ballots. The state could have filed an emergency appeal of the order rejecting the attempt to move the election. Instead, the powers that be waited until the last second and then chose to just blatantly ignore a court order. Four other states were able to move primaries that were originally scheduled today without completely trampling their state constitutions. Governor DeWine has been on the ball with closing restaurants and schools, but the way he handled the election is an unmitigated disaster.

We have plenty of time before the general election. Primary elections can — and should — be postponed to allow for widespread mail-in voting. But we can't forget that we have a presidential election in November and a wannabe autocrat in the White House. A lot of viruses have peaks in both the spring and fall. There is a very real possibility that Trump will try to use this crisis to keep himself in office, especially if his polls continue to crater. People in every state should be pushing their legislatures to pass legislation allowing mail-in ballots and early voting. The last thing we need on top of a global pandemic is another constitutional crisis.

Anyway, if you're in Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, or Maryland, there's no election today. If you're in Illinois, Arizona, or Florida, the election is on.

Stay safe.

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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