After a Franklin County judge Monday night denied the state’s attempt to postpone Election Day until June 2, the head of the Portage County Board of Elections expressed concern that the confusion might prompt poll workers to stay home.
Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye said it would be a "terrible precedent" for a judge to step in 12 hours before polls open to rewrite the election code, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
However, Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose say the election is still off despite the judge’s ruling.
The ruling prompted confusion among boards of elections throughout Ohio, including Portage County, where Faith Lyon, director of the board of elections, was holding emergency training sessions to fill in for poll workers who already had called off because of coronavirus concerns.
DeWine and LaRose recommended Monday afternoon that Election Day be delayed until June 2 because of COVID-19 fears.
LaRose had intended to go ahead with the election, but later said that he and Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, and LaRose talked the day before and agreed that it was important for the safety of Ohioans to postpone the election.
"It is clear that tomorrow’s in-person voting does not conform, and cannot conform, with these CDC guidelines," said DeWine during his Monday press conference. "We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, the in-person voting, for 13 hours tomorrow, and conform to these guidelines."
DeWine said he did not have the authority to fully cancel an election. It had to be completed by a judge.
Lyon said Monday night that she still had not been officially notified of Judge Frye’s ruling. Therefore, she said, she was planning to move forward with the election in less than 12 hours, including holding two emergency training sessions for precinct election issues. Last week she said because many poll workers are in high risk categories, some said they wouldn’t be working.
Now, she said, she fears that people will be confused over the status of the election and will not show up to do their jobs.
"It is imperative that they show up to help people vote," she said. "Our concern is that there is so much confusion that our precinct election officials will not show up."
In Portage County three school districts — Waterloo, Windham and Kent — are asking their communities to approve new money, and superintendents were generally supportive of DeWine’s recommendation. Waterloo is attempting to pass a five-year 1.5% income tax, Issue 9. Windham is asking for an additional 1.5 mills for permanent improvements for five years, Issue 8. Kent is asking for a 30-year, $25.19 million bond issue amounting to 2.36 mills, Issue 6.
In addition to the three districts asking for new money, two districts are asking for renewals, which do not raise taxes. Aurora City Schools is seeking a five-year, 5.6-mill renewal levy, Issue 5; and Rootstown is seeking a five-year, 4.31-mill renewal, Issue 7.
Democrats will be deciding which of four candidates will advance in the race for Portage Count sheriff to the November election, and which candidate will face Sabrina Christian-Bennett in November’s contest for Portage County Commissioner. Republicans, meanwhile, will decide which candidate will face U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan in November in Congress’ 13th district, and several seats on the party’s central committee.
P. Ken Howe, one of the candidates running for sheriff, said it is important to keep people safe.
"If we have to wait, we have to wait," he said.
Ohio currently has more than 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Hundreds more people are being tested.
Contact reporter Eileen McClory at 330-298-1128, email@example.com or @Eileen_McClory.
Reporter Krista S. Kano contributed to this report. She can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.
Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or email@example.com.