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Ohio primary still set Tuesday despite coronavirus concerns that shut down Louisiana’s

The Columbus Dispatch logo The Columbus Dispatch 3/13/2020 Rick Rouan
Frank LaRose holding a sign: Secretary of State Frank LaRose delivers the keynote address during a conference about election cybersecurity at the Statehouse last month. He said Friday that Ohio’s primary election would not be moved despite concerns about the spread of COVID-19. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch] © Provided by The Columbus Dispatch Secretary of State Frank LaRose delivers the keynote address during a conference about election cybersecurity at the Statehouse last month. He said Friday that Ohio’s primary election would not be moved despite concerns about the spread of COVID-19. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Ohio will not delay its primary election, as Louisiana decided Friday amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose joined his counterparts in Arizona, Florida and Illinois on Friday in a joint statement affirming that their states' primary elections would go on as planned Tuesday.

Louisiana announced Friday that it was postponing its primary election scheduled for April 4.

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"Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday," they wrote in the prepared statement.

Elections officials around the state reported that they are losing poll workers scheduled to work Election Day because of fear about the spread of the coronavirus.

LaRose earlier this week ordered local elections officials to move voting locations at about 125 senior living facilities to new polling places to insulate residents of those facilities from the spread of the virus. That includes 16 in Franklin County.

Ohio has 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 159 others were under investigation as of Friday afternoon. Gov. Mike DeWine signed an order Thursday banning most gatherings of 100 or more people.

The order, though, does not apply to voters casting their ballots in the election.

Polling places are different from other large gatherings, the secretaries wrote, because they draw people from smaller communities together for a short period of time. Concerts, sporting events and other large gatherings, though, draw from a broader area and for extended time.

Voting machine manufacturers also have provided information about how to sanitize machines, and local boards of elections have received information from health officials about hand-washing, they wrote.

LaRose's office told county boards this week that they will be reimbursed for buying sanitizers, disinfectants, disinfecting or antibacterial wipes, disposable gloves, rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, and other sanitizing materials.

"As each of our four states prepare for voters to head to the polls on a Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe," the secretaries wrote in their statement.

Elections officials in Ohio have been encouraging voters to cast early ballots or to vote absentee if they do not want to go to the polls Tuesday. More information about voting absentee is available here.

The Franklin County Board of Elections assured voters on Friday that all its voting locations would be open on Tuesday, including those in schools, libraries and recreation centers.

Only precincts voting at senior living facilities had to be moved to new locations, and the board was required to send notices to the 21,000 voters who were affected by the change.

Polls open Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Voters in line at 7:30 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

rrouan@dispatch.com

@RickRouan

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