COVID-19 puts final stretch campaigning at a standstill

    Photo by Hill Street Studios/Getty Images.

    There will be little to no gladhanding in the days leading up to the March 17 primary election.

    Political parties and candidates themselves are taking special precautions in Ohio as COVID-19 has forced much of society to a halt this week. Gone are the usual grassroots efforts in the final stretch of campaign season. 

    Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, announced that the party would suspend public campaigning and party-related events through at least April 12. That means no fundraisers and no door-to-door canvassing as the election approaches. 

    In a video announcing the move, Timken said she is encouraging the 88 county parties to follow suit. 

    “My number one concern is the health and wellness of my staff, our volunteers and all Ohioans,” she said. 

    A number of candidates for the Ohio Statehouse and Congress have announced similar plans to cut back due to public safety concerns. Even the presidential race is affected: Democratic frontrunners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both had to cancel Cleveland rallies this past Tuesday. Biden has since announced he will host “virtual events” to be able to continue campaigning safely. 

    The Ohio Democrats have announced a “Voter Protection” team in the lead up to Tuesday’s primary election. Chairman David Pepper detailed the effort in a Twitter thread, writing that the party is mobilizing volunteers to make sure Ohioans are voting at the correct polling place.

    The Secretary of State’s Office and dozens of Ohio county boards of elections have worked together to relocate polling places away from vulnerable places such as nursing homes. 

    Both state political parties have urged Ohioans to vote early and become a pollworker if they are healthy and able. The state has been in need of additional pollworkers as a result of the novel coronavirus. 

    LaRose said early Friday that more than 1,200 Ohioans had signed up to become pollworkers over the last several days.

    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.