COLUMBUS, Ohio — Secretary of State Frank LaRose told election officials Wednesday to use the Ohio Redistricting Commission's newly passed congressional district map for May 3 primary ballots.
The commission's five Republican members voted in favor of the map. The two Democrat members voted against it, believing the map does not meet state guidelines and will be rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. The map needs approval by the court and will likely face challenges.
LaRose told county boards of elections to "take immediate action to reprogram their voter registration system" using the updated maps and "follow updated procedures for filing and signature validity for Congressional races."
"While accomplishing this will be difficult, I am confident that our tested, professional county boards will do everything within their power to execute on what we have all been instructed to do," LaRose said.
Election officials across Ohio have asked the General Assembly to delay the primary, but LaRose said lawmakers have "made it abundantly clear" the primary will be on May 3.
Sherry Poland, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections Office and first vice chair of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said many boards of elections were expressing concerns about their ability to have a successful primary.
OAEO sent a letter to Senate President Matt Huffman Monday stating that because of the delays in approving district maps, “our ability to administer a fair and accurate election has been compromised.” It also stated that rushing to hold the primary could lead to election mistakes.
“With all of the preparation that needs to happen in order for us to produce an accurate ballot, the clock is just ticking away,” Poland said.
Poland said the biggest obstacle local election officials will face is meeting the March 18 deadline to start sending out ballots to military members and their families. In order to do that, a finalized ballot — with districts — is needed.
“It’s absolutely crucial to be able to place voters in the correct districts and to place the candidates in the correct districts so voters are able to vote for those who will possibly represent them. And it’s a very tedious process,” she said.
On Monday, Senator 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.