Friday, March 6, 2015

Ohio to Move to a Later Spot on the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar?

The compromise to move the Michigan presidential primary to March 8 may end up leaving the Great Lakes state lonely on the calendar on that date. Alabama and Mississippi may vacate for the SEC primary a week earlier (on March 1) and now there are whispers in Ohio that legislators in the Buckeye state may not keep the presidential primary on March 8.1

From Henry J. Gomez at the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
Per sources in Columbus, something to watch in the coming weeks - whether March 8 holds as the date for Ohio's 2016 presidential primary. Under Republican National Committee rules, any state that holds its primary before March 15 could be penalized if they don't award delegates proportionally. But states that hold primaries March 15 or later could award delegates under a winner-take-all format.
Other than the maneuvering in Florida (and Arizona), there has not been any widespread movement by states to move to protect winner-take-all rules. Neither has there been any evidence of Republican Parties in states currently scheduled after March 15 (and showing no signs of changing dates) to adopt winner-take-all rules to replace their rules from 2012. [That may change as 2015 progresses, but that is a pattern -- no or little rules changes -- that is consistent with what was witnessed during a comparable period in 2011.]

Ohio may change that some.

But allow FHQ a couple of addenda to the rumors in Ohio:
  1. Unresolved redistricting issues had Ohio all over the calendar in 2011. Coming into the 2011 legislative session, Ohio was scheduled to hold a presidential primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. The ongoing dispute over district boundaries had legislators first push the primary to May. Then the law the primary move was housed was challenged in court and the date reverted to March. But the districts issue remained, so the legislature created a separate presidential and US House primary in June. Then, in mid-December 2011 -- just more than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses -- a legislative agreement on the district boundaries facilitated a move back to March. There is no redistricting conflict in 2015, but there is still a legislative process that any change to the primary date in Ohio would have to navigate first. 
  2. Ohio Republicans utilized a delegate selection plan in 2012 that has them right smack in the middle of truly winner-take-all and truly proportional. The small sliver of Ohio delegates that are at-large (allocated based on the statewide results) were allocated proportionate to a candidate's share of the statewide vote. The bigger cache of congressional district delegates were allocated winner-take-all based on the vote outcome in the congressional district. Ohio Republicans would have to change things regardless of a move. To comply with the 2016 RNC rules, Ohio Republicans would have to proportionalize the allocation of those congressional district delegates. And if they move to a later date -- post-March 15 -- there would likely be a change to at least the proportional allocation of the at-large delegates (to winner-take-all). If the move occurs that is the most likely outcome: at-large delegates allocated winner-take-all to the statewide winner and the three congressional district delegates in each district allocated to the winner of that district. That is the traditional way -- a winner-take-all by congressional district or winner-take-most plan -- that Ohio Republicans have allocated delegates in the past. Granting all the delegates to the statewide winner would be a departure for the party. 
Both points are worth keeping in mind if an effort to move the presidential primary materializes.

1 Hawaii Republicans have caucuses planned for March 8 as of now, but even if the party keeps its delegate selection event in that spot, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Hawaii will actually compete with mainland Michigan for candidate attention. Idaho and Washington are also eyeing March 8 as a possible destination for their primaries.

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