Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May

Legislation introduced this week would shift the presidential primary in Ohio from the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.

There have been other bills floating around during the 2019 state legislative sessions across the country, but none of them have so far called for a later new date for the 2020 cycle. This Ohio bill -- HB 101 -- changes that.

But the reasoning behind the effort differs somewhat from the states-moving-back scenario FHQ described last fall and earlier in 2019. There, the focus was on what Republican-controlled legislatures might do with 2020 presidential primary scheduling during 2019:
Contrast that with the Republican-controlled state governments across the country. Their motivation is different. Protect the president? Then move back (and see the state party shift to a winner-take-all allocation method). Hurt the Democrats? Then move back and shift an important constituency concentrated in a particular region. Think about that SEC primary coalition from 2016. That could break up and push the votes of a valuable Democratic voting bloc -- African American -- to later in the calendar. That might affect some candidates more than others.
Typically partisan actors on the state level leave well enough alone if their party controls the presidency. The motivation is just different for parties occupying the White House.  And there has been more inaction than action in 2019 across the country in states whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans.

But this Ohio bill fits the pattern outlined above: a proposed backward shift and a Republican-dominated legislature.

Yet, there is a catch. This bill is not a Republican vehicle for broader calendar mischief. Instead, it is a Democratic-sponsored bill with an entirely different motivation; an administrative one. Ohio primaries are in May unless it is during a presidential election year. In presidential years, everything moves up to March. Rep. Jack Cera (D-96th, Bellaire) and his seven Democratic co-sponsors offered the bill because those March presidential primaries, according to Cera via BuzzFeed, "are an unfair burden on local elections administrators and candidates who have a narrower window to prepare for the next election."

Election administration is a common counter to any presidential primary maneuvering, and this case is no different. But it is a harder case to make in light of the fact that Ohio has had a March presidential primary since the 1996 cycle. Two fewer months of preparation for elections administrators and candidates is not nothing, but it is a practice that one could argue has become institutionalized in presidential years over the last two plus decades. This would be another matter entirely if the Ohio presidential primary was on a different date than the primaries for other offices. That would entail additional preparations and costs associated with one more election. But Ohio primaries are consolidated.

And 2020 is not a cycle like 2012 when, because of unresolved redistricting issues in the Buckeye state, the presidential primary was moved from March to May, then from May to March before it was moved from March to June and the back to March again (with May again at one time considered a potential landing spot). That was a burden to elections officials and candidates during 2011. Ohio having another March primary in 2020 does not meet the level of that sort of burden.

Reasoning aside, this bill may not be high on the agenda of Republicans in control of the levers of power in Ohio state government. And no matter what Ohio legislators opt to do, both the March date and the targeted May date have regional partners. Michigan is scheduled to have a primary on March 10 and Indiana will hold a May 5 primary.

Ohio has a history with first Tuesday after the first Monday in May presidential primary dates. The state conducted primaries in that position in both 1984 and 1988.

This Ohio bill will be added to the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.

7/9/19: Ohio Republicans Chart Subtle Calendar Move to Preserve Winner-Take-All Allocation

7/18/19: Ohio Budget Bill with Presidential Primary Move Passes the Legislature

Follow FHQ on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: