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Ohio Democratic Party Files Lawsuit Over Primary Postponement

Voters fill out their ballots at the Hamilton County Board of Elections on the first day of early voting, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
Associated Press

The decision to postpone Ohio's primary has stirred up legal challenges, including a state supreme court lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party. Leaders there say this is actually a preemptive strike to protect the extended primary.

Issuing a public health emergency order, Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose postponed Tuesday's primary election to prevent exposure to the coronavirus for voters and poll workers.

LaRose then issued a directive to boards of election setting a second round of absentee mail-in voting, with an in-person election date on June 2.

But Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper says only lawmakers or the court can change an election date, which puts LaRose's order on shaky legal ground.

"So the lawsuit is actually about saving this primary," Pepper says. "There is no authority right now in place for the proposal for a June 2 primary or any extension of the primary, so we had to rush to court today to actually preserve people's ability to vote in this primary."

The Democratic Party lawsuit sets the primary date for April 28, and requests voting by absentee ballot only. That would mean no Election Day, in-person voting.

Their suit also seeks an order for the Secretary of State to arrange for prepaid postage for absentee requests and ballots.

Pepper added that an earlier date of April 28 would resolve some logistics issues for presidential candidates trying to seat delegates for the upcoming party national conventions.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court set a speedy schedule for the lawsuit. The Secretary of State's Office is required to respond to the complaint by Friday, March 20, and both sides will submit briefs and evidence next week.