Right now, there are two primaries scheduled in Ohio next year. A group of Democratic elections workers is pleading for state lawmakers to merge next year’s two primaries back into a single event. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports the situation is still fluid, with a key filing deadline just hours away.
The primary for the state legislature and the US Senate is scheduled for March – the primary for Congressional districts and the presidential race is set for June. All races were supposed to happen in Ohio in March, but the second primary was created because the Republican drawn Congressional district map might not stand. Democrats are still working to put it before voters next year.
38 Democratic boards of elections members in 29 counties have written to Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder, asking him “to work across party lines to swiftly reach a solution that includes a single primary election.”
Tim Burke of the Hamilton County Board of Elections says though state lawmakers say the $15 million cost of the separate primary will be covered by the state, that’s doesn’t resolve the group’s concerns.
“First of all it’s still taxpayers’ money. And secondly, none of us believe that they’re really going to cover all of the expenses associated with it. It’s not just the dollar expenses. It’s the human costs too. Elections are an exhausting process for everybody involved,” says Burke.
And Burke says it isn’t fair to argue that Democrats caused this by putting up a map that Republicans felt was too partisan, and then by pushing forward with their challenge of the map – because Burke says the primaries could still be merged into one, “It’s the Republicans which have created this second primary that we, there’s just no justification for it.”
While the dual primary eliminates the special elections in February and May, Burke says the Hamilton County Board of Elections is going to need to get at least 2-thousand poll workers to turn out for both the March and June votes, which he says will be difficult to do. His letter was a surprise to Dale Fellows, the head of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials and a board member in Lake County, where he’s also the chair of the county Republican party.
But Fellows says he understands the frustration that sparked it, “I think, you know, the Speaker is well aware of the issues. I don’t see any harm with the letter, but I’m not sure that that’s going to be the single persuasion. We’ve been doing our due diligence bipartisanly, and I think that’ll have the weight that it needs.”
Almost every one on both sides of the aisle agree they don’t like the two primary plan. But as of now, the state is operating as if the two primaries will go on as scheduled. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted is no fan of the two primary situation, and has ordered the Congressional filing deadline to stay on Wednesday at 4pm just in case the Democrats don’t turn in enough signatures to challenge the Congressional district map and the state can go back to just one primary in March. But he says the state has to plan for the second primary in June just in case.
“The power to change all these things, to make them uniform, to create one primary and an agreed upon set of maps is within the power of the General Assembly to do. It’s just a matter of whether they’ll do it,” says Husted.
Husted says it’s not just candidates and local boards of elections who are in limbo. He notes school districts, fire departments and others who have levies and money questions they want to put before voters still are confused about whether there will be two primaries or one.
“We are running out of time. And if you sense frustration in my voice – I was telling people last year that these maps needed to be done by the end of August. I made all kinds of pleas about the need to get this done early because of all the potential complications for this, and yet we’re still not done,” says Husted.
There’s been no comment from Speaker Batchelder on the letter from the Democratic boards of elections members. Democrats have until Christmas Day to turn in enough signatures to challenge the congressional map – if they don’t, the two primaries could go back to one in March.