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Commentary: Why Ohio's Primary Election Delay Is Wreaking Havoc

A sign at a polling location in Lyndhurst states how Ohio called off its primary election just hours before polls were set to open, an 11th-hour decision the governor said was necessary to prevent further fueling the coronavirus pandemic.
Tony Dejak
A sign at a polling location in Lyndhurst states how Ohio called off its primary election just hours before polls were set to open, an 11th-hour decision the governor said was necessary to prevent further fueling the coronavirus pandemic.

A consensus is growing in Ohio - among Democrats and Republicans alike - that it is time Ohio set a date for its primary election, which was to have happened Tuesday, so that all of this can be over, once and for all.

And that date is likely to be much earlier than June 2, the date originally set by Ohio's chief elections officer, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, as the day when polling places would finally open and the votes would be counted.

But, thanks to a lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court filed by the Ohio Democratic Party and the apparent intent of the Republican leaders of the Ohio legislature to get on with it, this election could end up being unique in the 217-year history of this state.

It could be the election which ends sometime in April without a single polling place in Ohio's 88 counties ever opening its doors to voters. And with a count based solely on absentee mail-in ballots and the votes of those who voted at county boards of elections prior to Tuesday.

So be it.

This is probably not something the average voter cares about, but the delay is wreaking havoc on candidate races where congressional and local candidates with primary opposition are running out of money and may find it difficult to raise more for general election campaigns in an economy that is going south fast.

But it will make for a very strange and very skewed general election.

"I have no interest in seeing this primary drag out one more second than necessary,'' said political consultant Jared Kamrass, whose Rivertown Strategies firm is running campaigns for several Democratic candidates and the "Yes on 7" campaign for a county-wide transit tax.

"Ending this as soon as possible is the best thing for candidates of both parties,'' Kamrass said.

Well, then let it end. Put a date on it. April 28, as the Ohio Democratic Party lawsuit suggests. Or some other date in April.

"We didn't file this with the Supreme Court because we want to fight with anybody on this; we don't,'' said David Pepper, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. "I've been in constant communication with the governor's office on this and they are with us in principle.

"The idea that we might be in the position to hold a regular, in-person election at the polling places by June 2 is questionable at best,'' Pepper said.

It is likely that by the end of next week, we will have an answer; and the answer will likely be sometime in April.

The Ohio Supreme Court has put out a schedule for the case that suggests the seven-member court will have a decision by next Friday and the decision will either be set by the court itself or order the Ohio General Assembly to do so.

Ordering the legislature might be a moot point by next Friday.

The Ohio General Assembly is set to go into session next Wednesday, and Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder is clearly running out of patience and would like to see a conclusion to this election within the next couple of weeks.

It is very hard to argue that the decision by Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, late Monday night to close the polls was the wrong one. Lives were at stake, particularly the health and well-being of the most vulnerable Ohioans, the elderly, to COVID-19.

That was the right decision. One based in science. One that took courage.

Now it is time for the administration, the legislature, the courts and the political parties to show more courage and put an end to this myth that we can wait months to hold an election and everything will be just fine and dandy.

Real life suggests otherwise.

Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.


Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit .

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.