Ohio Senate leader suggests COVID funds could pay for second primary after maps are approved
A primary for just Ohio House and Senate races will be set later this year, after Republicans on the redistricting commission failed to pass maps that the Ohio Supreme Court found constitutional.
Ohio House and Senate races are not included in early voting now going on for the May 3 primary because there are no maps for those districts that have been upheld as constitutional.
There are not only questions about when that second primary will be set, but how to pay for it.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said there may be a way to use federal COVID dollars to pay the estimated $20 million for the primary for legislative races because the pandemic delayed the census data used to create the maps.
“It might be a little tenuous, but certainly we'd rather spend restricted money if we could, rather than GRF money," Huffman said. "So if there's a wedge into some COVID relief funds, and we would do that, but the state will be able to pay the extra cost.”
In striking down the last set of legislative maps, the Ohio Supreme Court’s majority has singled out Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp as controlling the redistricting process.
No date has been set for that second primary. Huffman said lawmakers want to wait until the fourth set of legislative maps are reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court, or until a panel of three federal judges decides if they'll intervene on April 20.
"I think what I want to emphasize is I'm not going to say 'we should do this' or 'don't do that' until we have more clarity on the situation," Huffman said. "There just aren't enough facts to say yeah, we're coming back at the end of April, the beginning of May or exactly what, until we hear from one or both courts."
A Republican state representative has proposed taking the cost of the election out of the Supreme Court’s budget. Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said the Ohio Redistricting Commission has had many long sessions to try to get maps done, but he thinks the Ohio Supreme Court "has not prioritized it the way that the redistricting commission has."