CINCINNATI — Friday is the deadline for candidates to file for election, but many are not sure what their district will look like as experts say the Ohio Supreme Court is unlikely to approve the latest maps.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose told election officials Wednesday to use the Ohio Redistricting Commission's newly passed congressional district maps for May 3 primary ballots, but those maps need approval by the court and will likely face challenges.
While election officials asked the General Assembly to delay the primary, LaRose said lawmakers have "made it abundantly clear" the primary will be on May 3.
If the maps are not approved and officials are forced to re-sketch, it will likely push back some important dates and information for candidates.
"We have candidates across Ohio, some of whom have been talking about running since last year, who can't actually say where they're running because they don't have districts yet," said David Niven, politics professor at the University of Cincinnati. "One of the most profound places is Cincinnati."
In the latest map, Cincinnati and half of Hamilton County share a district with Warren County. Some say those lines do not represent how the city has previously voted.
"This is a way of taking these votes, these highly Democratic votes in Hamilton County, and diluting them with the very, very strongly Republican votes in Warren County," said Mia Lewis, associate director of Common Cause Ohio. "The city of Cincinnati will find it extremely difficult to elect a representative of their choice."
Congressional candidates have to file by March 4, but Niven said it could take weeks for the Ohio Supreme Court to make a decision on the maps. If the court rejects them, there will not be enough time for the May 3 primary.
"To be on the safe side, I would expect every congressional candidate to go ahead and file — even if the district they're filing in isn't going to exist," Niven said.
Meanwhile, voters will have to wait and see if any change will be made. On Monday, Senate President Matt Huffman said he did not want to move the primary date and stated he does not believe there are "sufficient votes to move the election.”
Instead, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 9, which provides emergency funding to Ohio’s 88 county board of elections. The money can be used to help prepare for the primary.
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Ohio Secretary of State tells election officials to use latest congressional maps for May 3 primary