Editorial: Delay, but don’t split, this year’s primary election


A recent editorial by the Youngstown Vindicator:

After the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the latest set of Ohio legislative district maps for the the third time as unconstitutional, lawmakers, our Ohio secretary of state and county boards of elections everywhere now are left wondering how they ever will be able to pull off a full primary election on May 3 — exactly 45 days from today.

Local election officials say, in fact, it’s simply impossible.

Here is what candidates, voters and elections boards now are facing.

With no specific district lines drawn nor approved for state legislative races, and still awaiting word on the congressional district lines, the full ballots cannot be printed. Unequivocally, those ballots should already be in the mail to our service men and women serving our country while stationed overseas, along with other absentee ballots to voters temporarily outside the United States.

Under the Ohio Supreme Court’s latest order, the next effort at drawing constitutionally acceptable maps must be completed by March 28 and submitted to the court by March 29.

Surely, the prospects of getting those lines drawn, accepted by the Supreme Court, and ballots printed and mailed in time for them to be returned for a May 3 primary is highly improbable, especially considering that early voting would begin just one week later, on April 5, which is 17 days from today.

Local election officials say, frankly, it’s downright impossible.

As a result, now under debate is whether to delay the entire primary election or do a split primary with statewide and county races decided May 3 and races involving new district lines held at a later date.

Changes to the election dates are left solely up to state lawmakers.

The cost of splitting the primary into two election days would be astronomical. That’s an unreasonable option.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose said having two primaries would cost $20 million to $25 million. The Ohio Legislature recently approved $9.2 million in additional money to boards of elections to prepare for the May 3 primary.

HIGH COURT’S RULING

By a 4-3 decision, the high court for the third time ruled Wednesday that this latest set of legislative maps unconstitutionally disproportionately favor Republicans. The court had ordered the commission to draw maps reflecting the partisan statewide voting trends of the past decade, according to the constitutional amendment passed in 2018. That would be 54% Republican to 46% Democratic.

The map approved Feb. 24 reflected those percentages, but 26 of the districts were drawn to favor Democrats by no more than 3%, and all of the Republican districts favor that party by at least 5%.

“The commission again has adopted a plan in which a disproportionate number of toss-up districts are labeled Democratic-leaning,” the court’s majority decision stated. “The existence of competitive districts is not inherently problematic. The gross and unnecessary disparity in the allocation of close districts is what offends.”

The court ordered the commission to draw and approve a fourth set of maps by March 28 and submit it to the court a day later.

… We also must accept that it will be impossible to be ready in time for the May 3 election. Further, taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for two primary elections. Two primary elections would not only cost additional taxpayer money, but it’s likely it would confuse voters and drive down voter turnout. Let’s face it, voter turnout is already too low. Let’s not make it worse.

Lawmakers must come together to decide upon a logical replacement election date, most likely in June.

We urge them to work swiftly and cooperatively to defeat any discussion of hosting two primary elections and instead vote to delay the primary by a month.

— Youngstown Vindicator, March 20