Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Saturday directed county boards of elections to start the process of placing General Assembly and state party central committee candidates on the May 3 primary ballot, despite district boundaries coming in late and lacking approval from the Ohio Supreme Court.
LaRose previously said it was “impossible” to hold a May 3 primary with all security and accessibility measures in place that includes district-based races because of delays and uncertainty. He asked legislative leaders to push back the primary for these races, but they declined to do so.
“Elections officials across Ohio are concerned about the compressed timeline for candidate certification, ballot preparation, and the programming and testing of voting equipment,” LaRose said Saturday. “These are serious concerns, but our directive is clear, and we will work tirelessly with Ohio’s bipartisan election professionals to achieve it, delivering the secure, accessible election Ohioans expect and deserve.”
Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp, both R-Lima, wrote to LaRose on Thursday to say they share some of his concerns but directed him to start preparing for a May 3 primary.
This wasthe same day the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which Cupp and Huffman sit on as part of the Republican majority, passed a third draft of legislative maps after the first two were struck down by the state Supreme Court as gerrymandered.
LaRose passed along the third maps, which still face challenges in the high court, to local boards of election with directions to prepare for an election using those boundaries. He is also working with state lawmakers to get more funding for county elections boards to help meet these demands. He also provided guidance for candidates filing for U.S. House of Representatives by the March 4 deadline.
LaRose also requested a waiver from the U.S. Department of Defenseseeking more time to prepare and deliver ballots to military voters and their families overseas. The law allows them to begin absentee voting March 18.
“As a combat veteran myself, I know what it’s like to cast a ballot from the battlefield, and I’m determined to make sure these delays back home don’t deprive our brave men and women a vote,” LaRose said. “I’m confident the Defense Department will work with us to mitigate these unprecedented circumstances.”