Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ohio Bill to Move Presidential Primary to May Has Second Committee Hearing

The Ohio legislation to shift the presidential primary in the Buckeye state from March to May had a second hearing before the House Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday, March 21. 

The hearing was short and sweet. Testimony on just three bills was heard and the panel made quick work of them. That included HB 21, the bill introduced by Rep. Daniel Troy (D-23rd, Willowick) to make May the uniform primary position in Ohio regardless of election year. Troy spoke on the measure in late February, but this time, it was Gail E. Garbrandt of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials who gave testimony on behalf  her bipartisan group in support of the legislation. 

Garbrandt echoed many of the points Troy made in the February hearing, espousing the virtues of "election processes and procedures [that] are uniform, consistent, and easily understandable for our voters." But she also made the case about further reducing the burdens on taxpayers and election administrators. The March primary increases costs because the filing deadline falls during the holiday season at the end of the preceding year when overtime pay is often required in order for election officials to meet state-mandated deadlines. 

The committee once again failed to pose any questions to the lone witness, and it remains unclear whether the case has been successfully made to the committee for moving the primary in presidential years. That silence could mean a lot of things. However, it is worth acknowledging the fact that Ohio has managed to pull off primary elections every March since 1996. Proponents of the change push back on the idea of Ohio being a big draw in any of those seven cycles. And while that may be the case, it is also true that seven cycles have created a measure of consistency in the Ohio election calendar that bill supporters would interrupt in order to establish a "uniform, consistent and easily understandable" primary permanently scheduled for May in all years. That may or may not be convincing to the members of Government Oversight.

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