Ohio House OK’s March primary, end to map flap
COLUMBUS — The Ohio House of Representatives passed a compromise bill to reunite the state’s primary in March and approve a new congressional map, ending months of political wrangling in that chamber.
The 77–17 House vote came at the eleventh-hour during the chamber’s last scheduled voting day this year. It’s aimed at ending a dispute over new GOP-drawn congressional lines.
The agreement reached Wednesday by lawmakers would repeal the current congressional lines, reunite the state’s primaries to a single March date and establish a task force to make recommendations for changes to the mapmaking process.
The bill is expected to be voted on by the Senate later Wednesday night.
The primaries were separated in October to give lawmakers more time to compromise on new congressional district boundaries after a Republican-drawn map was challenged by Democrats, who have been gathering signatures in an effort to ask voters to repeal it on next year’s ballot.
Currently, Ohio’s state, local and U.S. Senate primaries are planned for March, but the presidential and U.S. House primaries are scheduled to take place in June.
The agreement would settle concerns over Democrats’ referendum efforts, and shift the primary to an earlier date to allow GOP voters to have a stronger say in the party’s presidential nominee.
A second primary election day would cost taxpayers an additional $15 million.
“This is definitely the right thing to do. We combine the primaries and save the state $15 million,”â€ˆ State Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), said. “I also think voters will like this map better.”
Earlier Wednesday, Karla Herron of the Ohio Association of Election Officials told a House panel that her organization endorses a single primary date. One date would eliminate voter confusion, alleviate any problems with preparing voting equipment twice, and keep officials from having to recruit poll workers for a second time.
The new map does contain “substantial” changes from the congressional map that lawmakers passed in September, said Lima Republican Rep. Matt Huffman, the map’s House sponsor.
Among key revisions, the new map would unify seven counties that were previously split, reduce splits in two counties from three to two and split one county that was previously whole. It also increases the black voting-age populations of urban districts in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.
Both maps would create 16 districts — 12 favoring Republicans and four favoring Democrats. The state is losing two congressional seats due to slow population growth.
The once-per-decade process of redrawing congressional maps comes after each census to reflect changes in population. Because of slow population growth compared with other parts of the country, Ohio is losing two of its 18 U.S. House seats.