MEDINA – Cancelation of the primary election March 17 over fears about the coronavirus outbreak left local election officials confused and candidates disappointed.
On Monday, the Ohio Department of Health ordered that polls for Tuesday’s primary election be closed because of fears that polling places could facilitate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive Monday night to local elections officials moving the primary to June 2.
The sudden change followed a ruling by a Franklin County court that the primary should proceed as planned which was overruled through an order from Ohio Health Director Amy Acton which stated that a health emergency required the closing of the polls.
However, the order to hold the election June 2 is subject to a ruling by the Ohio General Assembly, which was planning to weigh in on the issue.
State Rep. Steve Hambley said Tuesday afternoon that party leaders were trying to schedule a meeting of the general assembly to vote on when the primary should take place and what rules should apply to absentee voting.
“The decision is up to the General Assembly and not the secretary of state,” Hambley said.
House Speaker Larry Householder told reporters Tuesday, “The legal authority to change the date rests with the Ohio General Assembly – not the courts and not via executive fiat.”
Hambley also happens to be a candidate for Medina County commissioner who is running against incumbent Pat Geissman. He said he was disappointed about the political implications of postponing the primary but said health concerns are more important.
Geissman said she, too, was disappointed about the change in voting.
“I wish the election was held as planned,” she said. “It was a shock to hear that it (the primary) was off, then on, and off again.”
She said the virus and the health of voters has to be taken seriously, but the postponement is hard on candidates.
“This means we have to start our campaigns all over again and repeat things like taking down signs and putting them back up again,” Geissman said. “I would have liked to get the whole thing over with.”
However, Geissman said the delay may be a blessing to her campaign since it will give older voters more time to get around to voting.
“I have a lot of strong support from senior citizens, who may have been reluctant to go out and vote because of this virus,” she said.
Board of elections Director Carol Lawler said more county voters have been taking advantage of early voting opportunities but not a majority of voters.
Hambley said only 11 percent of registered Republicans in Medina County had voted prior to the March 17 deadline.