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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