Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ohio House Passes Bill Moving Presidential Primary Back to May

On Wednesday, May 18, the Ohio House passed HB 194, an omnibus elections bill. Like the Florida elections bill recently passed, the legislation is being roundly dismissed by Democrats who called some of the provisions in the bill "voter suppression" and also addresses the Buckeye state's presidential primary. Unlike the bill in Florida, though, the Ohio legislature is leaving the presidential primary scheduling in the hands of the state legislature, but is moving it back from March to May.

FHQ has been eying this legislation -- and a comparable bill in the state Senate (SB 148)1 -- for a while now, but the bill never comes out and directly moves the primary. Legislators have stricken references to the first Tuesday in March -- the date on which the Ohio presidential primary is currently scheduled -- but no substitute date is inserted. The law must fall back on the special elections provisions contained therein (another section where references to the March presidential primary were removed). The special elections law specifies the first Tuesdays in February, May, August and November as options for special elections to occur. February is not a possibility for the Ohio presidential primary if the state is to comply with the national parties' rules regarding delegate selection. And the August and November dates obviously fall outside of the back end of the window in which states can hold primaries and caucuses. The only option, if the March presidential primary date is not available -- is to hold the primary on the first Tuesday in May.

This was a move that was raised back in January by Republican Secretary of State John Husted due to complications from the redistricting process. Still in a state controlled by Republicans (both houses of the legislature and the governor), this is a curious move. One motivation, as has been talked about in relation to the primaries in both Georgia and Texas, is that by moving from March to May, Ohio Republicans would be able to maintain their tradition of allocating delegates on a winner-take-all basis. Republican National Committee rules prohibit that practice prior to April.

This House bill will be added to the Presidential Primary Bills Before State Legislatures in the left sidebar.

1 The Senate version does not remove references to the March date for the presidential primary in the way that the House version does and as such does not propose a primary move.

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