Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Don't Necessarily Get to Used to the Idea of a June Presidential Primary in Ohio

Did Newt make the deadline in Ohio? Did he not make the filing deadline? At this point, it's moot. [FHQ really should have tried harder to pair up Newt and moot in some of rhyming Shakespearean couplet. Not our strong suit.] Today is the filing deadline for the presidential primary but only because of a technicality. The bill that shifted the presidential primary and the US House primaries from March to June will not take effect until next month and as such the filing deadline -- 90 days before any primary election -- has not been shifted accordingly. A filing deadline, in other words, cannot be instituted and enforced for an election that does not yet exist. That said, that June primary for presidential and US House nominations will be set in stone as of January 20.

...unless it isn't.

The reason FHQ adds that caveat is that the Ohio legislature has not given up hope that a deal can be reached to create one consolidated primary for all offices. The complication is that after today, the March 6 option will be off the table unless there is some effort to reduce the amount of time -- 90 days currently -- between the filing deadline and the primary. Other later options are still a possibility; leaving that 90 day window untouched. In fact, that is exactly the direction the Ohio House appears to be moving. And finally, it appears that Buckeye state legislators will propose a separate, stand-alone bill addressing the presidential primary date (and the date of the other primaries as well).

As FHQ has laid out in detail previously, the Ohio presidential primary situation has been a complete mess. The only state that had more trouble attempting to schedule a primary this cycle has been Missouri, and even then a case could probably be made that Ohio has been worse. The main culprit behind the complication has been that the presidential primary date change(s) have been added to omnibus bills with other controversial elections provisions. The first -- the move from March to May -- is in limbo because it was included in a bill that is perceived by some groups to curb voting access. That led to an effort to put that new law before the voters on the November 2012 ballot and postponed the "effective by" date in the process. The second move -- to solidify the March primary date -- has now met a similar fate. Instead of voting access, the complicating factor is the new redistricting map. But now, finally, legislators seem to have wised up and are considering introducing a bill that would only address the primary date; consolidating the two new sets of primaries on a date later than March 6.

As of now, one date being discussed, and that legislative Democrats are open to, is April 24. That is the same date as the primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Adding Ohio to the mix on that date would create a contiguous Rust Belt/Northeastern regional primary that would have the third most delegates at stake in the Republican nomination race. Only March 6 and June 5, in that order, are dates that would have more delegates available to the candidates vying for the nomination than April 24. That date would also allow Ohio Republicans to maintain their winner-take-all allocation of delegates and avoid having to allocate at-large delegates proportionally.

The Ohio House was in session today -- as was the relevant State Government and Elections Committee -- but there was no action on the primary date front. The legislature -- both the House and Senate -- will be back in session on December 13 and 14; next Tuesday and Wednesday. Those are the final two session days for the year.

For the record, an April 24 primary would mean a January 25 filing deadline. If a change to that date is not made next week, then January 24 is the only remaining date available prior to January 25 in which both chambers are in session once the legislature reconvenes next year. There may be a change from the June 12 primary date, but that will likely have to take place next week or right before the deadline for the proposed date change.

Never a dull moment in Ohio.

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