Sherrod Brown has ‘mixed feelings’ about Ohio election postponement

By: - March 18, 2020 9:59 am

Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown gets why Ohio leaders sought to postpone Tuesday’s primary election. 

He just wishes the decision had been made sooner.

Brown told reporters Wednesday that he has “mixed feelings” about the decision by Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to intervene late Monday evening to prevent the next day’s election from taking place. DeWine had sought a judge’s order to postpone the election but the judge denied it, leading Acton to declare a health emergency — thus pushing back the election for the time being. 

The senator offered praise of DeWine and Acton’s handling of the COVID-19 public health crisis over the past few weeks. Brown said he agreed with the reasoning for wanting to postpone in-person voting in light of new federal guidance that public gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people.

Still, the senator believes Ohio leaders could have prevented the Monday mayhem by acting quicker.

“I think they could’ve done this on Friday,” he said. “But (DeWine) is in the arena doing this, I’m not.”

As others have done, Brown expressed concern that the last-minute intervention for the sake of public health could lead others in power to prevent elections for political purposes. He speculated that “in the age of Trump” that other governors or the president himself could attempt to delay the November 2020 election. To this point, no one has called for that to happen.

“We can’t let this be a precedent,” Brown said. “I’m hopeful the governor and the legislature will come together to find a way to (hold the election) earlier.”

Brown also suggested the solution going forward could be to switch to an all-mail balloting system in future elections. 

DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose have pushed for the in-person election to be held June 2, with an extended period of absentee mail-in voting in the intervening months. 

The Ohio Democratic Party, meanwhile, wants there to be only voting by mail for this postponed primary election. The party has filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court to force the state to accept these absentee ballots through late April, with no in-person voting date held. 

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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.