2nd primary election could cost taxpayers up to $20 million; redistricting maps still in limbo

The redistricting maps for statehouse seats are still not finalized for a primary election and that has led to what will likely be two primary elections in Ohio this year, something that could cost taxpayers an additional $20 million, according to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“No one wanted to see this,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a member of the redistricting commission, told News Center 7′s John Bedell. “No one wanted to see two primaries. But that is frankly where we are.”

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Despite the ongoing legal disputes over the redistricting maps, the Warren County Board of Elections was testing sample ballots before early voting starts Tuesday for the May primary.

“This has really put a lot of stress on us,” said Brian Sleeth, Warren County’s Board of Elections Director. “Handling the election during COVID was much easier than what I’m doing now.”

The months-long debate over the maps stem from a lawsuit filed in the Ohio Supreme Court by the League of Women Voters of Ohio that said the commission violated the Ohio Constitution with how the maps were drawn.

“We’re going to end up with a map. There’s going to be an election,” DeWine said. “But, I think we have to look at what the voter’s expectations were when they passed this constitutional amendment. First is how it really played out. And now we have three important decisions to interpret the Constitutional amendment.”

The arguments: Republicans say the maps are fair, Democrats say the districts favor Republicans too heavily.

So far, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed with Democrats and tossed out three sets of maps.

Because of those rulings, Sleeth said boards of elections across Ohio got an order from LaRose’s office to change the May primary ballots to remove the candidates in state legislative primary races.

“We were ordered a few weeks ago to remove the House and Senate candidates off the ballot. And that’s rather unusual this late in the game,” Sleeth said.

So, while you’ll still be able to vote on May 3 for candidates for positions like Governor, Attorney General, U.S. Senate and local county commissioners, you won’t be able to vote on who represents you at the statehouse in Columbus.

Ohio will need a second, special primary election later this year to make that happen once the redistricting map are settled.

LaRose has said a second primary could cost Ohio taxpayers $15 million to $20 million.

“All of the boards of elections are funded by the county commissioners. So ultimately, it comes out of the county coffers,” Sleeth said.

Sleeth said he’s hearing August will be the month for the special election, but also said “it could be anything.”

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