Lawmakers Deadlocked On Primary Compromise

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Democrats and their allies are trying to repeal the Congressional map approved by the Republican-led Legislature.(Photo: Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee)
Democrats and their allies are trying to repeal the Congressional map approved by the Republican-led Legislature.(Photo: Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee)

Ohio will have two primaries next year, thanks to a law signed over the weekend. Nobody’s happy about it.

But that doesn’t guarantee a compromise.

Why Split The Ballot?

The double primary deal was created by Republicans to handle confusion over a campaign time line. Democrats want to put the GOP-drawn map of Ohio’s 16 new Congressional districts before voters next year, so as of right now there’s no map to show the boundaries of those districts because Democrats are still gathering signatures for the ballot.

Moving the Congressional and presidential primary to June while leaving in March all other primaries, including the state legislative and U.S. Senate races, solves the problem of an upcoming filing deadline in December – when it’s possible Ohio still won’t have a Congressional district map.

Both Sides Angry

“It’s going to make us the laughing stock of the country,” says Dem. Representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati.

Also unhappy is Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina, who talked about what he’d like to see done to the second primary.

“Heaved, I think that would be a polite way to handle it.”

The extra primary is expected to cost the state $15 million, and Democrats say it will confuse voters. They wanted both primaries moved to June, but Republicans say the double primary is needed because Democrats have created a real problem.

“We still don’t have a map,” says Rep. Jay Hottinger of Newark, “and I think that’s another reason why we want to keep the primaries separate so that it doesn’t throw into confusion when we’d be able to vote for county commissioners and county auditors and state reps and state senators and that sort of thing.”

And Speaker Batchelder says a bigger problem could be stalled compromise talks between Republican and Democratic leaders.

“It would be fair to say that, that’s right.”

And some people don’t expect a resolution. Veteran Democratic Youngstown lawmaker Rep. Bob Hagan calls the back-and-forth “a shell game.”

“I’ve never seen it as ugly as it is today. I’ve never seen the games that have been played. I’ve never seen the Republicans try to move us away from what the real issues are facing this state.”

Fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland agrees.

“It just seems crazy that we’re in this situation. We understood that they were going to get the majority of the lines – they have the pen, we understood that. But the way they did it was just so screwed up,” says Foley.

What’s Next

While Batchelder dislikes the Democrats’ proposed map so much that he says Republicans would be better off if a panel of federal judges drew the map, he says he’s still holding out hope that the double primary may not have to happen.

Reporter: “If you do get some sort of agreement on new Congressional maps, would you expect to repeal the second June primary?”

Batchelder: ‘The thought occurs.”

And while each party is blaming the other for the situation, Batchelder was also critical of the Republican dominated Senate for not taking action on the primary bill, which Senators got in mid-September. Republican Senators had concerns over the bill, which at that point would have moved the Congressional and presidential primary to the date reserved for primaries and special elections in May, not a less standard primary date in June.

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