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Ohio Senate president suggests state should split primary into two different dates

 Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) talks about possibly moving the primary date.
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) talks about possibly moving the primary date.

Early voting is set to begin in five weeks for overseas and military Ohio voters. But district maps for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, and Congress -- drawn by Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission -- have been ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

With district maps in limbo, Huffman says Ohio might need to hold the primary on two different dates

"I don't see how we can conduct an election for the General Assembly and the congressmen on May 3. Are we going to penalize everybody else and upset that? No. So I think we're all searching for solutions," Huffman says.

Five Republican commissioners, including Huffman, voted in favor of the now invalidated state legislative maps. Huffman was also a key leader in passing the congressional district map that was approved by the House and Senate but also struck down by the court.

Huffman suggests the state could still carry out elections for local and statewide races and schedule a different date for the legislative and congressional races.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose has expressed concerns with the lack of official district maps so close to primary. In a court filing, the commission laid out the primary process in which absentee ballots are available for overseas voters 46 days before the election and early voting is available to all other registered voters 29 days before the election.

"If you compare that process with the court’s timeline for resolving the redistricting litigation, it becomes less likely with each passing day that Ohioans will have the high-quality election they deserve. We have a duty to tell the General Assembly that there’s risk in running an election on an expedited timeframe, and that’s what we’re doing," says Rob Nichols, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's Office.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) sent a letter to House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), his co-chair on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, saying the group must meet immediately. Sykes says the commission should reconvene no later than Friday to draw new state legislative district maps.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.