Friday, January 27, 2012

Possible Repeal Would Place Ohio Presidential Primary Back in March for Future Cycles

Before FHQ gets into this, let me state that none of the following would in any way affect the date of the 2012 Ohio presidential primary. Ohio will hold its presidential primary on March 6, 2012

Last year the Ohio legislature passed a controversial elections bill that would have impacted absentee voting and restricted early voting. The bill also shifted the presidential primary in the Buckeye state from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in May. It was the other provisions that led to a petition drive to place the new election law on the November 2012 ballot. That has implications for when future presidential primaries will be held in Ohio. The primary issue came back up in the discussions around the redrawing of the congressional district lines in the state and was placed back on the original early March date in a round of late-December 2011 legislation, but only for the 2012 cycle.

That would put the scheduling of future presidential primaries in Ohio in limbo until at least November when voters will either confirm or reject the new law. The former would move the primary to May while the latter would keep the primary in March.

However, an alternative option has been raised by Ohio Secretary of State John Husted. Secretary Husted has brought up with members of the Ohio legislature the idea of repealing HB 194 before it appears on the ballot. Such a move, if proposed, passed and signed into law, would make March the regular date for the presidential primary in Ohio in 2016 and beyond. And barring further action by the legislature on the full host of issues contained in the new law, that would be where the primary would stay. Now, given Secretary Husted's comments today, it is not a foregone conclusion that the legislature would not address some of the early and absentee voting provisions in the law, but it would seem unlikely that legislators would address the primary date again. The catalyst for the primary date change was the looming possible fight over new congressional districts. Secretary Husted in January 2011 cautioned that a primary date change may be necessary for local and state elections officials to get prepared for the 2012 primaries -- particularly the new districts. [Yes, the fight went into December and the primary remained on March 6.]

But long story short, a repeal of the legislation would take the future primary date issue out of limbo, but of course, leave open the option for the legislature to revisit the matter prior to 2016, if they so chose. But with no further redistricting on the horizon between now and, say, 2015, there is and would be no impetus for a change.

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