COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Tuesday is Primary Election Day, but it won’t be the only primary held in Ohio this year.
When that second primary will take place is currently up in the air, although there appear to be cogs moving the wheel toward an early August date.
As a result of the failure of the Ohio Redistricting Commission to draw maps the state Supreme Court deems constitutional, the districts determining who represents which parts of Ohio in the statehouse are not included on the May 3 ballot.
At stake are the people who will represent your neighborhood in the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives, the people who will determine what is taught in your schools, if recreational marijuana becomes legal in Ohio, and how much you will pay in state taxes and what those taxes pay for, among other things much closer to home.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who sits on the commission, has said a second primary election could cost the state $20 million-$25 million.
As it stands, the redistricting commission has until Friday to submit a plan to the state court that accurately reflects Ohio’s 54% Republican/46% Democratic voter registration split.
In addition to the political makeup of the districts, the state constitution, in an amendment approved by voters in 2015, calls for districts to be geographically compact and for any plan to pass the commission with bipartisan support, meaning any plan would need the approval of at least two Republicans and two Democrats on the 5-2 Republican majority commission. However, should a plan pass by a partisan vote and receive the state court’s approval, it would only be in place for four years; a bipartisan plan would be in place for 10 years.
In an attempt to make the Friday deadline, the commission has one meeting scheduled, for Wednesday.
Should the commission’s next plan, if one is approved, receive the court’s blessing, LaRose would be free to begin plans for the second primary election. However, should the commission create a set of maps that the Ohio Supreme Court rejects, a three-judge federal court hesitantly presented a solution.
In a late March ruling, the federal court set a deadline of May 28 for Ohio to have a constitutional redistricting plan in place, or the third set of maps, rejected by the state court, would be put in place.
That set of maps initially approved on Feb. 24 in a partisan vote, would give Republicans a 54-45 district advantage in the House and 18-15 district advantage in the Senate. Opponents of those maps argued the Republican districts would not be competitive in elections while 19 House and 7 Senate districts for the Democrats were, which opponents said could give Republicans a supermajority in both state houses and not be representative of the actual political breakdown of the state.
Should it come to this point, and that third set of maps is put in place, it would only be in effect for two years, meaning the commission would have to tackle the redistricting effort all over again.
The May 28 deadline was set by the court because LaRose said that would be the latest the state would be able to set up a second primary election, with that election date being Aug. 2, although that date is currently not set in stone.
LaRose said previously that the Aug. 2 date is the latest date a primary can be held without “negatively impacting” the Nov. 8 general election, agreeing with an assessment of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a bipartisan group of Ohio election workers. The OAEO said the Aug.2 date was crucial because of the time local election boards need to prepare early voting, overseas ballot mailing, and other “complex requirements for testing voting systems and proofing ballots” for the general election.
In addition to LaRose, the redistricting commission consists of Republicans Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, Ohio Speaker of the House Robert Cupp, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, and Democrats Sen. Vernon Sykes and House Minority Leader Allison Russo.
- Primary election day – May 3
- Ohio Redistricting Commission meeting – May 4
- Ohio Supreme Court deadline for a fifth redistricting plan – May 6
- Federal court deadline for a redistricting plan in place or the implementation of the commission’s third plan – May 28
- Ohio’s second primary election day – possibly Aug. 2
- General election day – Nov. 8