Ohio governor says 'we did not defy any court order' by delaying primary due to coronavirus

Gov. Mike DeWine closed polls in Ohio as a matter of a public health emergency.

March 17, 2020, 2:23 PM

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine defended his decision to close polls for the state's primary in response to the evolving novel coronavirus pandemic on "The View" Tuesday, saying that the state "did not defy any court order" despite a judge denying the state's request to postpone the contest until June.

On Monday evening, the Ohio governor tweeted that he would move to postpone the primary while the state continues to push its legal case in court.

"During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus," DeWine tweeted Monday.

In the tweet, he said Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, would "order the polls closed as a health emergency." Secretary of State Frank La Rose, he wrote, would "seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voters who wants to vote will be grated that opportunity."

DeWine's announcement came just hours after a Franklin County, Ohio judge denied the state's request to postpone the primary until June 2. The state's primary would have been on Tuesday.

PHOTO: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks at a news conference at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, March 3, 2020, to announce impacts on the Arnold Sports Festival of the coronavirus.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks at a news conference at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, March 3, 2020, to announce impacts on the Arnold Sports Festival of the coronavirus.
Julie Carr Smyth/AP, FILE

Tuesday morning on "The View," DeWine denied defying the Ohio judge's court order.

"It was not a specific court order. We did not defy any court order," DeWine said. "The Ohio Supreme Court, later in the night in a separate case, basically said that the elections could be stopped, so we did not defy anything."

"This is about protecting Ohio citizens' lives. As governor, I have the obligation to do everything I can to protect people," said DeWine.

"The decisions we’re making are based on science," he added. "They’re based on the best evidence that we can get."

As a solution to the delayed primary voting, DeWine hopes to "work this out with absentee balloting."

"What we've asked the courts to do is to postpone this until June, allow people from now until June to apply for absentee ballots and get those absentee ballots," DeWine explained.

The Ohio governor noted that he also decided to postpone the primary because of the high risk the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, poses to senior workers at the polls.

"This is a gathering of people, and what we've tried to do is explain to Ohioans we cannot have large gatherings," DeWine said. "It was particularly unique with our elections because we have some older poll workers who have done this -- God bless them -- for many, many, many years."

During a press conference on Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump called postponing an election a "big thing" and said doing so was not "very good."

"They have lots of room and all of the electoral places. I think they will do it very well. I think postponing is unnecessary," Trump said Monday.

Despite the president's comments, DeWine said he had "a great conference" call on Monday "with all the governors and the president, the vice president [and] many other officials."

DeWine praised the administration's overall handling of the pandemic during his appearance on "The View" Tuesday.

"It was a great give and take. They listened, we listened. They told us what they knew. We told them what we knew, what our needs were, what our problems are," DeWine said Tuesday morning.

"We've asked the Trump administration, for example, to give us a waiver. When we closed down our schools, we faced a problem many states are facing and that is we have kids who rely on this food for lunch and sometimes for breakfast," DeWine continued. "Within 24 hours, the Trump administration gave us the waivers that we need so we can take this food out into the community."

As the national emergency surrounding COVID-19 continues to unfold, Trump said during a press conference on Tuesday that "we're going to win" the fight against the novel coronavirus.

"If we do this right, our country and the world, frankly ... can be rolling again pretty quickly, pretty quickly," Trump said. "We have to fight that invisible enemy that I guess is unknown, but we’re getting to know it a lot better."

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