On the eve of the March 17, 2020 primary election in Ohio, Governor DeWine and Director of Health Acton announced that the election was to be postponed because of COVID-19. Secretary of State LaRose announced that the new primary date would be June 2, but subsequently, on March 27, 2020, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation (HB 197) that moved the primary date from March 17 to April 28, but did not extend the February 18 voter registration deadline to correspond with the rescheduled primary. In addition, HB 197 imposed a cumbersome multi-step process for voting by mail that would be difficult for voters to complete in time, while eliminating nearly all opportunities for in-person voting.

Legal Theory

Closing off voter registration more than 30 days before the election is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act, 52 U.S.C. § 20507. The state’s procedures for voting constituted an undue burden on the right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. We proposed an alternative procedure for voting by mail, an extended voter registration deadline, and an extended primary date.

Status Update

On March 30, 2020 we filed a Complaint and emergency motion for temporary restraining order in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Judge Watson held a hearing on March 31 and ordered the parties to confer and attempt to narrow the scope of Plaintiffs’ challenges to HB 197. On April 1, the State of Ohio, the Ohio Democratic Party, the Ohio Republican Party and the Libertarian Party of Ohio moved to intervene. All four motions were granted the next day.

All briefing occurred in under two days. On April 3, the court denied the motion for TRO or preliminary injunction. The parties filed a stipulation of dismissal on April 20.

Date filed

March 30, 2020