COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has all but sealed its fate for a split primary election.
In a letter sent to lawmakers Thursday, Secretary of State Frank La Rose said without a vote to intervene Friday, he would have to direct local boards of elections to begin mailing out military and overseas ballots as soon as Saturday.
“When I issue this directive, the May 3 primary election is officially underway and any changes after that point would lead to chaos and confusion for Ohio voters,” wrote La Rose.
The General Assembly did not meet Friday.
As the ballots stand, they do not include legislative district races; that means a second primary will need to occur.
“A three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division, effectively set in motion on Wednesday a bifurcated primary, which would administer an election for statewide, congressional and local offices on May 3, while conducting a separate primary election for state House and Senate Raes and political party central committee seats at a later date, likely August 2," wrote La Rose.
Meanwhile, local boards of elections are preparing to begin early voting Tuesday. The Hamilton County Board of Elections held a “mock” election Friday to prepare staff.
“This is a really good way to test the system,” Director Sherry Poland said.
Poland said her office is ready for the primary, despite a challenging few weeks.
“(It’s been) a lot of hurry up and wait. We really had to condense the timeline we normally conduct these processes, but I’m happy to say the team has done an awesome job and we’re ready to start voting on Tuesday,” she said.
As far as what voters can expect, she said the process will still be the same, but the races on the ballots will be different than in past primaries.
“There are many contests that will appear on the ballot," Poland said. "This is a primary election so voters will choose between a republican ballot, a democratic ballot, and some jurisdictions in Hamilton County have questions or issues and they may choose to vote just on that ballot."
In Butler County, Deputy Director Eric Corbin said his office is ready for the race too.
“It’s been pretty difficult to get this election ready,” he said. “Normally we have from the filing deadline until the military deadline to get our ballots ready which is about 44 days. This time I think we did it in 11 or 12 days so we did multiple steps at the same time.”
Corbin said staff is prepared to assist voters who may be confused about the ballots.
“They’re going to say, 'Hey where’s that candidate I’m looking for, that knocked on my door?’ And we’re going to have to explain to them why that candidate is not on the ballot," Corbin said. "Certainly, we’ll have some voters who are well aware and come in and cast their ballot."
Both the Hamilton County and Butler County Board of Elections are still searching for poll workers, another challenge caused by the election confusion.
“On Election Day May 3, we’re going to need about 2,200 poll workers across Hamilton County and we are short about 500 right now,” Poland said.
That need does not include the additional poll workers needed for a second primary.
“Because of the uncertainty on whether the election was going to be held on May 3 and now adding an additional primary, we need you more than ever. So if you ever considered, it now is the time,” said Poland.
Ohio early voting set to open, deadline to register to vote is Monday
House and Senate races will not be on May 3 election ballot