Mar 18, 2022 - Politics

Latest court ruling puts Ohio primary election date in doubt

Illustration of the state of Ohio with red and blue districts inside it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Stop us if you've heard this one before: For a third time, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected state legislative maps for unconstitutional gerrymandering.

Why it matters: The consequences of this ruling are greater than previous times the court has rejected new maps. The upcoming May 3 primary election is now in limbo.

State of play: Ohio planned to mail out the first slate of early ballots today for military personnel and other overseas voters, but the latest ruling invalidated the state legislative districts on those ballots.

  • Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who oversees the election system, now says it's impossible for the May 3 election to include those Ohio House and Senate races because the districts are still undetermined.
  • Yet LaRose directed county boards of elections to refrain from sending out absentee ballots until the issue is resolved.

Between the lines: Only Ohio lawmakers hold the authority to set the dates and times of our state's elections.

  • Lawmakers have yet to act. Until they do, the May 3 date stands — forcing elections officials to keep preparing a full ballot despite the logistical impossibilities.

What's next: Here are some options for how lawmakers can proceed:

1. Push back the election date.

  • This gives mapmakers more time, but it drags the primary election cycle even further.

2. Hold two elections: May 3 for most ballot items — statewide candidates, local candidates and issues that aren't subject to district boundaries — and a later one for the legislative races impacted by redistricting delays.

  • This option would cost the state millions of dollars.

3. Ignore the Supreme Court and stick to May 3.

  • Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) proposed this solution yesterday in arguing the court rulings demonstrate an "abuse of power."
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