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A few Ohio voters still go to closed polls amid coronavirus confusion - News - The Columbus Dispatch


A handful of would-be voters trickled to the polls in Columbus this morning amid confusion over whether the Tuesday primary would go ahead as scheduled.

A young couple walked up to the Schiller Park Community Center soon after polls had been scheduled to open at 6:30 a.m. Informed that there would be no in-person voting, they walked glumly off, declining to be interviewed.

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Shortly after that, Brian Anaya walked up. He said he came after hearing about a judge’s ruling that the election would go forward.

“I guess I understand,” he said. “Everything’s fluid. It’s changing daily.”

In a way, the extension is a relief, said Anaya, adding that his wife was uncomfortable with going to the polls after all the government’s urging for people to keep their distance from one another.

Several blocks away at the South Parsons Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Lamar Ruffin and Nicole Pascucci sat in a truck waiting to vote.

“We heard the verdict of the judge and it said we’re still voting,” Ruffin said, adding that he planned to cast ballots for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, both of whom are running in the Democratic primary.

“Something has to change,” Ruffin said.

As they talked about the election, Ruffin and Anaya lapsed into other concerns they have about the COVID-19 pandemic. Ruffin, a firefighter, will be on the front lines. He said he’s had the proper training and has the proper equipment, but he feels the gravity of the crisis.

“When you have your fire gear, you’re excited to put in on,” he said. “With this it’s different.”

And for Anaya, a certified public accountant, the concern is whether many of his small-business clients such as restaurants can survive the disruption.

Signs are posted on many voting locales noting that polls are closed.

In his Monday afternoon press conference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said it was too dangerous amid the coronavirus contagion to hold an election. But he said he didn’t have the legal authority to extend voting to June 2 as he wanted to. So affected citizens cooperating with the administration sued to stop the election.

The state’s attorneys the state political parties didn’t oppose the suit, and the extension seemed a foregone conclusion. But Monday evening Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye denied the attempt to postpone, saying it was the legislature’s job to decide when and whether to hold elections.

Then, at 9 p.m., DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a statement saying that it was impossible to safely hold an election on Tuesday, but it didn’t definitively say in-person voting had been canceled. An hour later, DeWine issued another statement saying that Ohio Health Director Amy Acton would postpone the primary for public-health reasons. Early Tuesday morning, four-members of the Ohio Supreme Court weighed in in support of the delay.

So the few who showed up to vote early Tuesday can be forgiven for their confusion.

mschladen@dispatch.com

@martyschladen

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