Partisan sparring by state lawmakers about proposed congressional district changes and moving the state’s 2012 primary from March to May is making it difficult to administer an effective election, Ohio’s secretary of state said Thursday.
“The political infighting that’s going on right now between the two parties is beginning to affect the effective administration of elections,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said during an interview with CentralOhio.com on Thursday. “This is a major concern to me.”
House legislators passed a bill Thursday to move the 2012 primary election from March to May, although it wouldn’t take effect immediately. The redistricting map cleared the Ohio House on Thursday by a 56-36 vote that included several “yes” votes from Democrats.
Democrats are weighing options for “legal challenges and a referendum campaign” of the proposed congressional district map, said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, during a Thursday morning news conference.
Democrats have argued the maps are being put to a vote too quickly. The new district lines for the U.S. House reflect the loss of two Ohio districts because of population shifts. Among other features, the map would force six incumbents to vie for three seats.
“Democrats and the general public first got a chance to see these unfair maps 48 hours ago,” party spokesman Seth Bringman said Thursday. “We believe the public deserves more time to take a look at these maps and weigh in.”
Without moving the date of the primary election, a new congressional map would be needed by the end of September to administer the primary election in March, according to Husted, a Republican.
A provision in an election reform bill that passed earlier this year would have moved Ohio’s primary election from March to May in 2012, but a campaign led by former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is seeking a referendum on the law.
The referendum campaign has until Sept. 30 to turn in enough valid signatures to add the referendum to the 2012 ballot, Husted said.
The election reform bill would reduce the number of days that voters could cast early absentee ballots, eliminate a county’s ability to send unsolicited absentee applications to all registered voters and authorize the secretary of state to set up an online voter registration portal, among other provisions.
The bill, which Husted supported, would have gone into effect Sept. 30, but a statewide referendum could keep the current law in place until after a vote next year.
“I want to have uniform standards for how we cast and count ballots in this state,” Husted said.