Tuesday, April 21, 2015

March 15 Presidential Primary Bill Moves Forward in Ohio on Party-Line Committee Vote

Following a public hearing a week ago, the Ohio state House Government Accountability and Operations Committee considered and voted on HB 153 today, Tuesday, April 21. That is the legislation that would push the presidential primary in the Buckeye state back a week to March 15. The move according to sponsor, Rep. Mike Dovilla (R-7th, Berea), would allow Ohio Republicans to hold their primary on the earliest date that the Republican National Committee rules allow a state to go with a delegate allocation plan that is not proportional.

In the past Ohio Republicans have utilized a winner-take-most (or winner-take-all by congressional district) delegate allocation plan. The party broke with that practice during the 2012 cycle. To remain compliant under the 2012 RNC rules, on the March 6 primary date, the Ohio Republican Party adopted a plan that was proportional. It remains to be seen whether the Republican Party in the Buckeye state will revert to the traditional winner-take-most plan or a truly winner-take-all method.1

In Dovilla's words, the move to March 15 would allow a less proportional contest that would "increase the amount of attention presidential candidates pay to the Buckeye State in the nominating process." Democrats on the committee, wanting to maximize the voice of Democratic voters in the Buckeye state proposed scheduling the presidential primary for May 3. That would place the primary at a point on the calendar outside of the proportionality window for Ohio Republicans, but also in "stage III" of the Democratic calendar. Primaries and caucuses scheduled from May 1-June 14 -- stage III -- would receive a 20% boost to their delegations. That would increase Ohioans voices in the Democratic nomination process.

Basically, both parties would theoretically get something out of the later primary.

Though that issue was raised by committee Democrats in the public hearing a week ago and in the committee proceedings today, the Republican-controlled committee tabled the May 3 proposal and passed the bill as is -- with the March 15 date -- in a vote along party lines. Republicans in control of the committee obviously valued the earlier/March date over the later/May primary date. The odds that the Republican nomination will still be active in mid-March is greater than in early May. Republicans on the committee were not willing to gamble on a later date.

HB 153 now moves to the House floor for the consideration of the full chamber.

1 The sponsor's testimony is not conclusive on that point. The motivation behind the bill is to "avoid effectively having 16 proportional contests for delegates within our congressional districts". Whether that means 16 winner-take-all contests in the congressional districts or one statewide vote to determine the allocation of all delegates is not clear. Traditional practice would seem to point toward the former, the winner-take-most option.

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