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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Analysis: A primary election in August? Thank the Ohio GOP

people sitting at a wooden dais.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio Redistricting Commission holds hearings on proposed congressional district maps from the public on Feb. 23, 2022.

Last week in this space we took a stab at explainingthe pretzel logic and Republican scamming of the system which has led us to an embarrassing and illogical position: In November, we will hold an election for Ohio's 15 congressional districts using a map that has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

"Unconstitutional," as in "illegal."

And guess what? Next week, Ohio is about to do it again. In a primary election where a turnout of 10% will be considered remarkable.

The congressional district map making and state legislative district map making are governed by two amendments to the Ohio constitutional passed overwhelmingly by Ohio voters – the state legislative maps in 2015, the congressional district maps in 2018.

The idea was to create a process which, at the very least, took some of the partisan gerrymandering out of the process.

Well, so much for that idea... thanks, in large part, to a Republican majority in the Ohio General Assembly and on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which has been thumbing its nose at the constitution – and, by extension, the Ohio voters who approved the amendments for nearly a year now.

So far, two congressional district maps and four state legislative district maps have been rejected by a four-member majority of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Here's a little explainer for this headache-inducing mess.

Why is Ohio holding a primary election on Aug. 2?

Because the Republicans who control the redistricting process in Ohio wanted to do an end run around that pesky Ohio Supreme Court, which kept insisting they follow the law.

They found a group of Ohio GOP voters — headed by Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life — to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court here asking the court to essentially take over the state legislative redistricting process.

They ended up with a friendly three-judge panel to hear their case — two of the judges were Trump appointees.

That panel, of course, sided with the plaintiffs, Gonidakis et al, and set an election date of Aug. 2, which Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (a member of the redistricting commission) argued was the latest date on which a primary could be held without bumping up against the official election calendar of the November election.

In true buttinsky-fashion, the three-judge panel also ruled the state legislative districts to be used for the August primary would be ones which had previously been ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, not once but twice.

Buckeye voters will go to the polls in both August and November to vote in state and congressional legislative races using maps declared unconstitutional by Ohio's highest court.


What exactly will be on the ballot?

Ohio House seats, Ohio Senate seats and Democratic and Republican male and female members of the parties' state central committees. Those are on this ballot because the state central committees are elected by state Senate districts. You will have to choose a Republican or Democratic ballot. Doesn't matter which you have had in past primaries; Ohio is an open primary state and you can switch parties at will.

Is anybody going to show up for this election?

Not many.

In fact, unless you are a person who never misses an election, the odds are more likely that you will be hanging out at the pool or vacationing on a beach on Aug. 2 rather than heading to your local polling place.

If you do go to your polling place, you may well find that there are no contested races on your ballot – one name for Ohio Senate and Ohio House, one name for state central committee. A handful of state legislative districts around the area have more than one candidate running for the party nomination.

Sherry Poland, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, has said they are preparing for a 10% turnout. That may be a bit on the high side.

Based on the early absentee ballot requests and returns, it could end up being less than 10%.

That means candidates in contested races are going to have to carefully target their voters and get them to either vote early or go to the polls on Election Day. It's a heavy lift.

Vote early next Tuesday. Beat the crowds.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.