COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A panel of federal judges asked to intervene on behalf of a group of Republican voters in Ohio’s protracted redistricting battle raised a new option Friday to keep the state’s May 3 primary alive: Shrinking Ohio’s robust early voting period.
The group delayed a decision for now, ordering Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to pinpoint by Monday whether making such an adjustment would violate any state or federal laws.
Monday also happens to be the deadline for the Ohio Redistricting Commission to get its fourth round of Statehouse maps done, after three earlier attempts were invalidated by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional gerrymanders favoring Republicans.
The GOP voters had asked the federal judges to order LaRose to move forward with implementing “Plan 3,” the third round of those maps, on grounds that the plan may violate the Ohio Constitution, but if legislative primaries can’t be held, that would violate voting rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
After listening to two hours of arguments, judges denied their request for a temporary restraining order. They’ll consider the issue in more detail at Wednesday’s hearing.
Judges asked LaRose’s lawyer to be ready to pinpoint at that hearing the “drop dead” date on which ballots could be adjusted and still make the May 3 primary, which has been a subject of disagreement.
Right now, spring early voting is set to begin April 5 and preparing ballots is said to take county boards of elections roughly 10 days.
If the Ohio Redistricting Commission meets its Monday deadline, and if its new maps happen to now be challenged in court, a delay to April 7 would appear to allow enough time.
The commission has been meeting every day this week, and independent mapmakers it has hired are working diligently to come up with a new proposal by the deadline. Their deliberations are being livestreamed on state government television.