COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A motion filed by the two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission looks to move the primary election date because there are currently no districts for Ohio Senate and House of Representatives.
The motion, filed by State Senator Vernon Sykes and Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo, seeks to move the primary election to June 28, nearly two months from its currently scheduled May 3 date.
The motion looks to “ensure that this Court can continue working with the Commission to make progress on adopting and implementing a plan that satisfies both state and federal constitutional requirements.”
The Ohio Redistricting Commission met Monday, where it agreed to hire two outside mapmakers — University of Florida professor Michael McDonald and President of the National Demographics Corporation Douglas Johnson — to begin work on the fourth set of legislative maps. The two men are expected to begin work Tuesday.
While June 28 is highlighted as the date to move the primary, the motion states that any other date works as well that would “allow sufficient time for the Commission to adopt and implement a new, constitutional set of maps.”
In addition, the motion states that moving the date would allow the commission to complete its duty without the interruption of federal litigation, particularly a lawsuit filed by Ohio republicans asking the court to institute the second set of maps the commission approved. That suit is set for a conference this Friday.
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s proposed Ohio Statehouse redistricting maps for the third time last week.
“Moving the primary is, to me, it’s a given decision, what I suspect we’ll start to hear from the Republicans is some debate about whether to have two primaries versus one primary,” Russo said last week before the motion was filed. “Our local elections officials have been very clear that we need to only have one primary.”
According to a statement from Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, only the Ohio General Assembly can move the primary, adding he does not support the request made in the motion. He has said previously that he is open to the state holding two primaries: one for statewide and local races on May 3 and one later for state legislative and congressional races.
Sykes believes the court can still change the date.
“We don’t think the legislature can prevent the court from intervening and ordering and making decisions to make sure we comply with the Constitution,” he said after Monday’s commission meeting. “We think at this time, the best possible method for us to handle this, to take a little pressure off, to give adequate time to make the proper decisions is to move the primary date.”
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose estimated a second primary would cost the state between $20 million and $25 million.
The court said any Ohioan wishing to respond to the Russo/Sykes motion has until 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The redistricting commission has until next Monday, March 28, to file a plan with LaRose’s office, with that plan due in front of the court the following day.