Showing posts with label elections legislation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elections legislation. Show all posts

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ohio Presidential Primary Back to March 6

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FHQ alluded to the rollercoaster ride that has been the process to set the date of the Ohio presidential primary for 2012 yesterday. And it was yesterday that the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee opted to take no action on the recently-passed House bill to move the date -- for the second time -- from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May. That insurance policy bill (HB 318)1, introduced originally because a petition drive to overturn the enacted omnibus elections legislature, imperiled the presidential primary date change contained therein.

After a nearly nine month saga, the Ohio presidential primary is right back where it started: March 6, 2012. And the newly-enrolled redistricting bill (HB 319) reflects that date.

A couple of thoughts:
1. Ohio potentially just became a real prize on March 6. Prize or not, it will likely be the battleground on that date. Now, that statement is predicated on the notion that this will be a Romney-Perry race at that point. The expectation would be that Perry would do well in the southern contests that day (Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and possibly Missouri) while Romney might be better served focusing his efforts on western caucuses in Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming with Perry-like expectations for victory in Massachusetts and Vermont. That leaves Ohio -- and the midwest more broadly -- as the potential tiebreaker on that day (and later on in the race overall). I don't think this is something that should be understated. Ohio just inadvertently became a pretty big presidential primary. Despite falling on a crowded date -- not as crowded with contests as Super Tuesday 2008, but crowded nonetheless -- Ohio is well-positioned to gain quite a bit of attention in this process.

2. Far be it from me to look forward -- way forward -- but that's kind of what we do around here. What happens to the 2016 Ohio primary? Nothing if the aforementioned petition drive is successful, gets the new election law on the November 2012 ballot and is subsequently voted down by Ohio voters. But if the drive fails or the ballot measure is not voted down, the primary will be set for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.2 That may mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, but at the very least it means that the legislature may be forced to revisit the primary date in 2015 if there is no consensus behind that May date. Time will tell.

1 FHQ should also note that there was an equivalent bill introduced in the Senate (SB 217).

2 September 29 is the deadline, so we will know relatively soon whether the petition has received the requisite number of signatures.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Republican Legislators in Ohio Push Back Against Democrats on Buckeye State Presidential Primary

Ohio has proven to be an interesting case study of presidential primary movement in the 2012 cycle. For starters, Ohio legislators never considered the Florida/Arizona/Michigan route. There was never any effort to move the primary from a compliant position on the calendar (first Tuesday after the first Monday in March) to a non-compliant earlier spot. Instead, as a means of insuring that legislators and state elections officials had enough time to adjust to newly drawn congressional/state legislative district lines, the effort was always to move the primary back. That was a discussion point from the Ohio secretary of state as early as January and continued as the primary move was inserted in a broad elections bill in April.

But the process -- one motivated by seemingly noble intentions -- has since that time been a rollercoaster ride that has devolved into a political battle over redistricting between the parties in the Ohio state legislature. Democrats last week withdrew support for the May presidential primary bill based on concerns Democratic state legislators and the Ohio Democratic Party had over the Republican-proposed new district lines. As FHQ mentioned, that amounted to not much more than a symbolic move on the part of Democrats. Republicans control both chambers of the legislature in Ohio and can pass the redistricting and presidential primary bills with or without legislative Democrats. Procedurally, however, Democrats have prevented Republicans from inserting an emergency clause that will allow the bills to take effect immediately.

But according to Andy Brownfield of the AP, the Republican majority now has a technical maneuver of their own in order to pass and ultimately protect both bills and have them take effect upon gubernatorial signature. The tactical workaround Republicans have at their disposal as a means of forcing an immediate "effective by" date is to add to the measures some clause dealing with the appropriations of state funds. Any appropriations bill passed by the legislature and signed into law takes immediate effect in Ohio. At least one appropriations option that is being discussed is to create separate primaries for state and federal offices with the former being held as usual in March while the latter would be created and moved to May. The May primary would include not only the presidential primary but those for US House and Senate as well. That would be a set of offices on a primary ballot unique to Ohio. Typically, the split is made at the presidential level while everything else is dealt with -- in states with separate primaries -- in one other primary.

That helps ward off the procedural move by Democratic legislators, but prevent -- at least in the case of the redistricting bill -- those same Democrats and the Ohio Democratic Party from attempting to place the new lines before Ohio voters in 2012 as they have done with the voter ID and reduced early voting law (the one that included the May presidential primary provision).

Look for any changes to the bill to surface when the House-passed HB 318 emerges from committee on the Senate side.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ohio May Presidential Primary Bill -- Sans Emergency Clause -- Passes State House

Despite all the uproar from Ohio House Democrats earlier in the week, the Republican majority today went ahead with separate pieces of legislation dealing with a new redistricting proposal and moving the Buckeye state presidential primary back to May. House Democrats, upset with the new district maps, threatened to withhold support for the bill moving the presidential primary from March to May. As FHQ pointed out in the post linked above, however, the Democratic threat was only applicable if Republicans were insistent about the measure taking effect immediately. The House majority apparently was not, as the emergency clause -- the mechanism by which the law would have taken effect upon gubernatorial signature -- was removed and the bill was passed by the full House. Instead of taking effect immediately, the bill would become law 90 days after being signed by Governor John Kasich (R).

HB 318 -- the House version of SB 217 -- now heads to the Senate for consideration, and the Ohio primary is one step closer to moving to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May for the second time.

NOTE: The Ohio legislative website does not have the vote tally up at this time, but the AP is reporting the bill has passed and the page for HB 318 marks the bill "As passed by the House".

UPDATE: The final vote was 63-29 in favor of HB 318.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ohio House Democrats Threaten March to May Presidential Primary Move

...or do they?

Various news outlets in Ohio are reporting a rift between state House Democrats and Republicans over the proposed redraw of the congressional districts in the Buckeye state. As ammunition in this fight, House Democrats are backing out of a deal on proposed legislation to move the Ohio presidential primary from March to May; a process that has become embroiled in controversy.

Initially part of a broader election law alteration, the presidential primary move has gotten caught up in a petition drive to put the entirety of the changes to the new law on the November 2012 ballot. Should the aforementioned petition effort meet the signature requirements by September 29, however, the changes in the law would not take effect pending the vote on the resulting ballot measure. In response, House and Senate leaders have opted to introduce legislation with the sole intent of moving the primary to May. The May date is preferred to the March primary date to ensure that local and state elections officials have the time necessary to adapt to the forthcoming changes to the Ohio state legislative and congressional districts.

Now, however, that seemingly simple legislative maneuver has gotten bogged down, in an ironic twist of fate, in a battle over the transparency behind the proposed newly drawn district lines. Ohio Democratic legislators are crying foul and are threatening to back out of a deal on the legislation to move the presidential primary back.

Let's dig into this a bit more because something about this just doesn't jibe well with FHQ's thinking on this. First of all, Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the Ohio legislature. What does it matter that those majorities don't have Democratic support? The answer lies in a provision that in the bill that allows it to take effect immediately upon being signed. The bill has, in other words, been granted what in Ohio is called emergency status (see Article II of the Ohio Constitution). The catch here is that for any bill to pass with an emergency provision, it requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Republicans have a majority, but not that level of a supermajority to pass this without some Democratic help.

Still, what is the big deal here?

FHQ doesn't necessarily see the effectiveness of the threat. Bill, under the normal protocol in Ohio, take effect 90 days following the governor's signing of the legislation. Assuming the Republicans just go it alone, they could pass the bill through both chambers, send it on to Governor John Kasich (R), and wash their hands of the matter. If that happens by October 1, the bill would take effect on New Year's Eve, 2011.

...well before the May 8 primary.

The hang up is over the question of whether the delay in the law going into effect also affects the funding and training of local elections officials, for example. If elections preparations are not dependent upon something along those lines, the Ohio legislative Democrats might just be bringing a knife to a gun fight. This obviously bears watching because there are some background questions that need to be answered so that the public can have a full understanding of this supposed threat.

Given what we know, though, I don't know that what the Democrats in Ohio have here constitutes a threat.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Bill Introduced in Ohio Senate to Move Presidential Primary to May. ...again.

Ohio Senate President Pro Tempore Keith Faber (R-12th, Celina) today introduced legislation in the Ohio Senate to eliminate the March primary in the Buckeye state. Primaries for all offices would all take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May instead of every primary election shifting to March in presidential years under the bill (SB 217).

Recall that the Ohio legislature previously moved the primaries to May earlier in the summer. But the overarching elections legislation (HB 194) that created that change also contained provisions that are now under attack on voting rights grounds. A petition being circulated across the Buckeye state would prevent the legislation in HB 194 from taking effect until it could appear on the 2012 general election ballot. In other words, the shift to a May primary would be nullified.

This new, clean bill should be expected to move fairly quickly through the legislature. Of course, we have all seen in Missouri how "fairly quickly" can morph into, well, not so quick, uh, fairly quickly.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Facing a Move Back to March, Ohio Legislature Set to Introduce Stand Alone Legislation to Keep Presidential Primary in May

The Associated Press reported last night that the Ohio legislature is prepared to introduce legislation to move the Buckeye state presidential primary to May. Now, if you have been reading FHQ at all during 2011, you probably know that Ohio has already moved its primary to May. Yeah, I did a double take too and then thought that the story was an accidental reprint from May. It isn't.

Some space has recently been devoted to describing Ohio Democrats' efforts to place a challenge to the recently-passed elections overhaul legislation on the ballot in 2012. That effort now includes a complete overturning of the newly-enacted law which also contains a provision moving the Ohio presidential primary to May. If Ohio Democrats are successful in gathering the necessary number of signatures on their petition, the elections law would be put on hold until the voters have a chance to vote on the matter in November 2012. That means that the presidential primary would move back to March. To head off that potential conflict Ohio state legislators of both parties are ready to introduce a stand-alone bill with the sole purpose of shifting the primary to May.


In terms of the timeframe for the bill, the legislature is scheduled to have a couple of "if needed" session days on September 13 and 14 and are back in session on September 20 and 21 with a committee hearing day slated for September 22.

The net effect of this is next to nothing since the primary is likely to stay on May 8. Still, this is an interesting footnote to the evolution of the 2012 presidential primary calendar. Along with Missouri, the lesson from Ohio seems to have been a warning to state legislatures: placing presidential primary moves  in sweeping election overhauls at your own risk (especially if the remaining elections changes are controversial and the primary move is necessary).

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