Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bill Introduced in Ohio House to Create a Consolidated Primary on May 22

UPDATE: Strike the below update. That applies to candidates for any office other than president or US House. The new deadline -- altered in this law for 2012 but reverting to 90 days prior to an election in all subsequent cycles -- will be 75 days prior to the proposed May 22 primary. That would be March 8, 2012. Of course that still leaves the emergency clause problem, but reduces the window of time between the filing deadline and the enactment of the law (assuming no emergency clause).

UPDATE: HB 391 retains the original December 7 filing deadline. That means that the only recourse available to Bachmann, Huntsman, Paul and Santorum -- if this bill becomes law -- is to file as a write-in candidate. That deadline is set as 72 days prior to the original March 6 primary date. That date is December 26, 2011.

Original post:

The Ohio House this morning introduced HB 391 to repeal the code to be enacted from the passage of HB 318. The latter legislation created a separate presidential (and US House) primary to be held on June 12, over three months after the primaries for all other offices on March 6. In addition to that reversal, the bill would also consolidate all primary elections on May 22. That would save the state the estimated $15 million it would have taken to administer the extra election.

Now, FHQ has been over this story many times already -- so I'll spare you the gory details -- but the basic storyline is that the prior attempts to set the date were layered in with other, more controversial elections provisions (changes in voter access and redistricting) that led to efforts to put those then bills -- now laws -- before the voters of Ohio on the November 2012 ballot. The progression has looked something like this:

  1. ...moved the primaries from March to May (HB 194)
  2. ...returned them to March from May (HB 319)
  3. ...moved the presidential and US House primaries from March to June  (HB 318)
  4. ...proposed moving those two sets of primaries back to March (HB 369)
  5. *NEW*...proposed consolidating those two sets of primaries on May 22 (HB 391)

FHQ has not seen the bill, but there should be some caution about this proposed May 22 primary date. First of all, for the legislation to take effect immediately upon gubernatorial signature, it will require an emergency clause. Such a clause requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the legislature and that means that the bill would require Democratic support. But does the emergency clause matter in this case?


Without Democratic support, the legislation -- if passed and signed into law -- would take effect on March 12 (90 days) if it was passed and signed today. The filing deadline for a May 22 primary would be on February 22; 90 days prior to the primary and a month before the law laid forth in HB 391 is to take effect. Of course, as was the case last week when much was made about Newt Gingrich missing the Ohio filing deadline, this would mostly be a technicality. The June 12 primary takes effect on January 20 and would put in place a March 14 filing deadline. Yeah, that deadline would be fictitious, too since it would only be in place until the provisions in HB 391 took effect. That would be two days prior to March 14 on March 12. [Confused yet?] At that point the real -- February 22 -- filing deadline will have passed. In other words, for those candidates not named Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry -- those already on the ballot in Ohio -- go ahead and submit your paperwork now. Save yourself and your campaign staff the confusion.1

I haven't watched it yet this season, but the Ohio primary date situation reminds me of what the magician in Frosty the Snowman says: "Messy, messy, messy." That's the Ohio situation in a nutshell.

1 Granted, the Ohio legislature could change the filing deadline to sometime other than 90 days prior to the primary election for 2012.

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