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Due to COVID-19, the Ohio governor's office issued a decision on March 16th that the polls would be closed on March 17th and voting suspended until June 2nd. To my knowledge, this was despite a Franklin County judge's refusal to allow the suspension. The Supreme Court of Ohio then refused to hear a case challenging the governor's decision.

Had I been able to vote today, the ballot would have included local issues. In my opinion, the polls should not have been closed to local-level issues due to a state-level decision. Does this give me any grounds to bring a lawsuit against my city?

  • The way you describe things in your question is somewhat misleading. The request to the Franklin County judge was by two individuals arguing that, since they were exceptionally vulnerable to COVID-19, holding the elections as scheduled would effectively deprive them of the right to vote. The order to close the polls was done by the governor based on his authority to take various actions in response to a public-health emergency. There's no "despite" here, just two unrelated actions that took place at roughly the same time. – Mark Mar 19 at 0:18
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Does this give me any grounds to bring a lawsuit against my city?

Sovereign immunity shields municipalities from lawsuits seeking money damages in a case like the ones you contemplate, although suits for injunctive relief can be brought (i.e. to order a municipality to take particular actions to address your complaint).

Individuals involved in the process are only subject to suit for money damages if their decision is not legislative or judicial in character and constitutes an intentional violation of a clearly established constitutional right to vote, but can also be sued for injunctive relief in their official capacities.

But, any suit seeking injunctive relief would be moot as to the decision already implemented not to hold the election. A suit seeking injunctive relief could only seek prospective relief such as an order to hold a new election sooner than the date to which it was postponed.

Also, IIRC, election administration is vested in state agencies and in county governments in Ohio, and not in municipalities. You can't sue a city over something over which it had no control.

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  • Thanks for the answer. Would I be able to file a suit against my county to seek prospective relief to open the polls earlier than June 2nd? As far as I understand it, the original suit was brought forth in Franklin county (presumably because the capital, Columbus, is in that county). But is it accurate to say that I could file suit against my (different) county to hold the polls earlier than June 2nd? – IWantedToVoteToday Mar 18 at 3:24
  • @IWantedToVoteToday A suit to compel the election to be conducted earlier than June 2nd could probably be brought. But, the logical way to do it would be to bring a suit for injunctive relief against the State Board of Elections in Franklin County, rather than against an individual county, which probably does not have the authority to adjust the date of an election and hence can't be compelled to do so. – ohwilleke Mar 18 at 23:50

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