Leaders of Ohio’s elections say the second primary should be held on August 2

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — A coalition of elections officials from around Ohio are underlining their call for a second primary to happen August 2 — and no later.

Early voters at the Athens County Board of Elections on Oct. 6, 2020
Early voters at the Athens County Board of Elections on Oct. 6, 2020. [Aaron Payne | WOUB]
Early voting is under way for Ohio voters to cast their ballot for statewide, congressional, and local races for the May 3 primary. But state legislative races have been removed from the ballot because the Ohio Redistricting Commission has yet to adopt maps for legislative districts that are deemed constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The most recent ruling from the state’s high court suggested the separate primary for Ohio House and Ohio Senate races could happen after August 2. This would suggest state redistricting officials have more time to implement a map without the federal court getting involved.

Now the Ohio Association of Elections Officials is weighing in, saying the state must hold its second primary election on August 2.

Aaron Ockerman, executive director for the organization, said August 2 allows elections leaders to sufficiently wrap up the May 3 primary and gives them time to prepare for the August 2 date. He said any other date this summer would be tough.

“If they pick a date other than August 2, the legislature is going to have to go in and tweak all kinds of different deadlines because we already have an election scheduled on August 2. The dates associated with that are very clearly spelled out in state law and we can just get all of our dates in line with those that already exist in the law. It’s just a lot cleaner,” Ockerman said.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office has said August 2 is a crucial date because it allows administrators to get ready for a filing deadline 90 days prior to the election, which would be May 4.

Ockerman said it makes sense when you consider some local elections will already be held on August 2. He added that telling those counties they’d have to hold a separate election for legislative districts on a different date could be confusing.

“That just becomes literally impossible. My mind is kind of just exploding, contemplating how we would make that work,” Ockerman said.

In the 4-3 ruling to invalidate the latest adopted set of state legislative district maps, the supreme court noted that other states are holding primaries after August 2 and that the Ohio General Assembly has the authority to set a new primary date with other deadlines attached.

“Any suggestion that the federal court could – much less that it should – set an August 2 primary election date as a remedy in the federal-court litigation strikes us as a dubious proposition at best,” the court wrote it its majority opinion.

The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt a new set of maps by May 6, but the federal court has said it might step-in with a decision on April 20. The secretary of state’s office has said a decision by April 20 is vital to being ready for a May 4 filing deadline.

There is also the issue of early voting. Ohio’s early voting period is 28 days. There’s a requirement that ballots be mailed to overseas and military voters 46 days before an election and boards of elections must incorporate the new legislative district boundaries into multiple computer systems.

Ockerman said when you look at all of those factors, it is clear that August 2 is the date that makes the most sense for the second primary.

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