Ohio House agrees to push presidential primary

AP News
Posted: Oct 21, 2011 9:42 PM
Ohio House agrees to push presidential primary

Ohio voters can prepare for two primaries in 2012 after the governor signed a bill on Friday night to hold most national contests in June with local primaries still taking place in March.

Gov. John Kasich signed the bill Friday, in order that it go into effect before the Jan. 21 deadline for local boards of election to ship ballots to members of the military overseas.

The Ohio House of Representatives less than an hour earlier approved a Senate move to hold state, local and U.S. Senate primaries in March, while presidential and U.S. House primaries would take place in June.

The measure is intended to give lawmakers more time to come up with new congressional districts after the GOP-drawn map passed in September was put on hold while a Democratic-backed coalition tried to put it before voters for possible repeal in 2012.

Lawmakers from both parties met behind closed doors on Friday, but left with no compromise map.

Members of both parties took turns bemoaning the move and assigning blame to their opponents.

GOP Rep. Matt Huffman, who sponsored the original congressional map bill, said Democrats would rather see a federal judge draw the map than lawmakers elected by the people of Ohio.

"When I see a referendum (ballot repeal effort) which is designed to defeat the right of people to pick their congressional representatives, in my mind that's our republic slowly sliding into the water," Huffman said.

For their part, Democrats blamed Republicans for everything from not giving voters enough time give feedback on the map before its approval to drawing maps that didn't accurately represent Ohio's political leanings.

"Something as important as this (congressional map) should have been reviewed a little more by the public at large," said Warren Democratic Rep. Tom Letson.

"It doesn't really matter that you didn't let the minority party do it _ we're so far in the minority, it doesn't matter _ but there are 11.5 million people out there in the state of Ohio that deserve more respect from you."

Many Democrats also called the measure irresponsible, pointing out that it will cost taxpayers and additional $15 million to hold a second primary.

"Once again the Republicans have done what is in their best interest and not that of Ohioans," Democratic House Minority Leader Armond Budish said in a statement.

In a dueling statement, Republican House Speaker William Batchelder countered that the measure would save local elections boards money by moving special elections scheduled for August to June alongside the primary races, eliminating the need for them to pay for another separate election.

The battle is the latest in a fight that has been going on since the GOP-drawn districts were introduced on Sept. 13.

Last Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered Secretary of State Jon Husted to accept petitions from a Democratic coalition that is seeking have voters weigh in on the maps on 2012 ballots.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern told reporters on Monday that he will withdraw the petition if legislative Republicans work with Democrats to create a map with more competitive districts _ one that more accurately reflects Ohio's political makeup, which he said is close to evenly-split.

An analysis by a coalition of voter groups contends that 12 of the 16 districts were drawn around voters that favored GOP candidates, while only four leaned Democratic.

The ruling from Ohio's high court came in response centered on a move by Republicans that they argue should have shielded the bill from repeal. GOP senators added money to local elections boards to help them implement the map.

Typically bills making appropriations are not subject to repeal efforts, but the court said it interfered with Ohioans' right to strike down laws they don't agree with.

Democrats and voter groups have long criticized the districts _ one stretches from Toledo to Cleveland and another crescent-shaped district touches parts of 13 counties from Appalachia to Amish country. They are the lines were being penned politically to preserve Republicans' majority in Ohio's congressional delegation.

Republicans defend their maps as fair and legal.

In a statement in response to Redfern, Republican House Speaker William Batchelder wrote that the maps passed both chambers with bipartisan support.

In Batchelder's House, three of 40 Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the map in a chamber of 99 representatives. In the Senate, two of 10 Democrats signed on in support of the districts, in a chamber of 33..