CLEVELAND (WJW) — Just 24 days after Ohio’s May primary election, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced on Friday that a second primary will be held on Aug. 2, for seats in the Ohio House and Senate, and positions on the Republican and Democratic State Central Committees.
The announcement comes after a long fight over redistricting of legislative maps came to a head on Friday, when a federal court ruled that the state must use a map that had earlier been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
“You talk about playing political darts in the dark, and no one knows if they’re running or what’s happening or where they’re voting,” said former Brook Park Mayor Tom Coyne.
Coyne is now a Republican, but as a longtime Democrat, he served as the chairman of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. He believes election officials across the state will have no trouble adjusting to the second primary in August, but he wonders how it will impact voters.
“They’re seeing politicians and elected officials and now even the judicial branch is jumping into the game and saying ‘wait a minute, you can’t do this, this is unfair,’” said Coyne. “I’m not sure if it affects them all a great deal, unless it’s inconvenient, if it’s inconvenient, that’s where the failure comes in.”
Election analysts say Friday’s decision by the federal court gives Republicans a decided advantage in the State House and Senate. Democrats accuse the GOP of “running out the clock” on redistricting the legislative map, so that they have a map that would protect the Republican majority in the General Assembly.
Coyne says no one should be surprised by the heated partisan bickering about the map redistricting, given the current political atmosphere in the country.
“You draw a district, and see if you make 100% of the parties who are concerned about the make-up of the district, you see if they’re happy, I think not, I’m sure not, all right, because it’s almost impossible to do correctly,” he said.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission was created after Ohioans voted in 2015 to get rid of gerrymandering by whichever party was in control of the General Assembly. But Steven Steinglass, Dean Emeritus of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, says he is concerned that the map selected by the federal court was earlier ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court, due to concerns about partisan gerrymandering.
“The rule of law is something that should be obeyed, should be followed, and I don’t think it was in this case,” said Steinglass.
The Constitutional law expert says opponents of the legislative map that will be used for the Aug. 2 primary and the Nov. 8 general election, appear to be running out of options to stop it.
“The next step if the federal issues are pursued, would be the U.S. Supreme Court, and I tend to think that having run the clock out, there’s not much chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to or will intervene,” said Steinglass.
He adds that because the map approved by the federal court only applies to the election cycle in 2022, the debate over the legislative map will start up all over again in 2023.