COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After the Ohio Supreme Court declared a third set of state legislative maps unconstitutional on Wednesday, a full-ballot, in-person primary election on May 3 is likely out of the question.
When the now-rejected maps were approved in late February, Secretary of State Frank LaRose directed local boards of election to carry on assuming both the statehouse maps and the not-yet-approved congressional map would stand.
“Obviously,” LaRose wrote, “if a few weeks from now the Court rules that the new plan is invalid, it will not be possible to conduct Ohio House and Ohio Senate primary elections with the May 3, 2022 Primary Election.”
LaRose’s office had no immediate comment about how the Supreme Court’s decision will impact the election.
Although the planned election is more than six weeks away, local election boards need to meet certain deadlines, like sending ballots to Ohioans in the military or living overseas (which is Friday). Also, candidates obviously need to know what district — and thus which voters — they are going to try to represent.
More deadlines quickly loom in the election process, including:
- March 22: Local election boards must advertise in newspapers the dates and times of voter registration. (Six weeks before election.)
- April 4: Voter registration deadline. (30 days before election.)
- April 5: Ballots must be ready. (First day after voter registration closes.)
The state Supreme Court has yet to rule on the latest Ohio congressional map, passed March 2 via party-line vote by the Republican-majority Ohio Redistricting Commission.
Critics say that map, like the thrice-rejected statehouse maps, carries an unconstitutional Republican advantage. But if it’s approved by the high court, a two-date primary election could be on the table.
The court’s Wednesday ruling, a 4-3 split with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor as the decider, did not suggest a new date for Ohio’s primary. But it did acknowledge the time crunch.
Justices wrote that LaRose’s directive from February is not unlawful, and they did not grant an injunction on him requested by petitioners and two Democratic lawmakers. Petitioners also argued that the court should modify election deadlines, but the court’s opinion said the legislature holds that power.
State lawmakers last changed the dates and procedures for an election early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Ohio’s March 17, 2020, primary was moved to June 2.
Republicans, who control both chambers of the state legislature, have seemed to not want to move the date of this year’s primary. Democrats have been in favor of moving the date.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), though, has said he is open to two primaries: one for statewide and local races on May 3 and one later for state legislative and congressional races.
Gov. Mike DeWine two weeks ago signed a bill to give military and overseas voters more time to return their ballots.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission has to draw new state House and Senate districts by March 28, per the Supreme Court’s order.