Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ohio Budget Bill with Presidential Primary Move Passes the Legislature

On Wednesday, July 17, both chambers of the Ohio legislature adopted a conference committee report for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget. The vote in the state Senate saw just one dissenting vote while the House vote was marginally more divided. Of the 17 nay votes in the House, 14 were Democrats.

One item tucked into the 2600 page bill that likely did not drive much controversy was the provision to shift back the date of the Ohio presidential primary a week on the primary calendar. Should HB 166 be signed into law -- and it is a carefully negotiated budget bill, so approval is likely -- then the Ohio primary would fall on the third Tuesday after the first Monday in March rather than the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March as was the case in 2016.

And the reason for the change is exactly what it was four years ago when the Ohio legislature pushed the primary back a week from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March: it preserves the ability for the Ohio Republican Party to allocate the delegates in its primary on a winner-take-all basis. While the second Tuesday after the first Monday date worked for that purpose in 2016, it will not in 2020. It worked in 2016 because the first Tuesday in the month fell on March 1. With the month of March not beginning on a Tuesday 2020, it meant the primary would be slightly earlier in 2020, before the end of the proportionality window.

That triggered the primary move amendment added to the budget bill in late June. And this move should keep Ohio Republicans on the winner-take-all side of March 15 moving forward. The 2024 primary would fall on March 19, where Ohio Republicans would remain eligible for a winner-take-all allocation process (unless the Republican National Committee opts to change the parameters of the proportionality window after 2020).

UPDATE: Governor DeWine (R) signed HB 166 into law on July 18, 2019.

2/27/19: Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May

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

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