Coronavirus and its impact on Ohio's primary election
In Judy Brockman, Jill Reardon v. Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, the plaintiffs alleged that due to the risk of exposure, they would not be able to enter the polls and vote on the primary election date of March 17, 2020. Therefore, the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights would be infringed upon unless the election date is postponed. The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to suspend all election activities scheduled to occur on March 17, 2020, and to have those activities rescheduled to June 2, 2020. However, the plaintiffs’ motion was orally denied by Judge Richard Frye. Consequently, the plaintiffs filed an appeal of the decision to the Court of Appeals, Tenth Appellate District of Franklin County. However, the next day the plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss the appeal due to election being postponed following Dr. Amy Acton and Secretary of State LaRose’s actions on March 16, 2020.
On March 16, 2020, Dr. Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order to shut down all polls on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Dr. Acton cited that polling locations would be heavily trafficked and large groups will cause the spread of COVID-19.
Following Dr. Acton’s order to shut down the polls, Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive to provide clarity to the county board of elections and candidates on campaign finance filing deadlines.
On March 17, 2020, in State ex rel. Speweik v. Wood Cty. Bd. Of Elections, the Ohio Supreme Court denied without an opinion a writ of mandamus brought by a candidate for Wood County Common Pleas Judge. The writ sought to compel the Wood County Board of Elections and the Ohio Secretary of State to hold the Wood County primary election on March 17, 2020.