COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the fight in Ohio between a defiant political mapmaking panel and an equally stubborn Ohio Supreme Court bears a resemblance to the movie “Groundhog Day,” then long-suffering election workers are the guy caught in the daily nightmare — at least according to the head of their trade organization.
The Ohio Association of Election Officials drew the analogy Monday as it stood by state election officials' insistence that a second primary for legislative races must be held on Aug. 2 — no later. Early voting in other races is already underway for the first primary, being held May 3, but Statehouse contests were omitted from ballots because those maps remain disputed.
“One dissenting justice compared the redistricting process to the movie “Groundhog Day.” It is an apt description for election officials who feel like Bill Murray,” said Brian Sleeth, the association's president, in a statement. “Indeed, we are trapped in an endless cycle of fits and starts, unable to begin or conclude the important work our voters expect us to complete.”
In the 1993 film, Murray plays a weatherman doomed to relive the same day over and over again.
Sleeth and association first vice president Sherry Poland — who are the directors of elections in Warren and Hamilton counties, respectively — also said Ohio “simply must hold” its second primary on Aug. 2.
"The suggestion that a date other than August 2nd will work has only served to redouble confusion and consternation, just as we were beginning to see a path out of this mess,” said Sleeth, whose association represents election officials in all 88 Ohio counties.
In invalidating a fourth set of legislative maps last week that had been sent to them by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, the court's majority questioned what's so sacred about Aug. 2.
“It is unclear as to why August 2, 2022, is the last available date for a primary election in Ohio,” they wrote, pointing to several other states that hold primaries on Aug. 16 and some that even push their primary elections into September.
Justices acknowledged that April 20 — this Wednesday — has been identified in federal court as the last possible date for new legislative maps to be put in place in order for an Aug. 2 primary to go forward smoothly. The U.S. District Court has signaled it will take action by that date if the state doesn't resolve the issue on its own by then.
The election officials' organization said there are good reasons why Ohio's ramp-up to a primary election takes more time than in some other states. Those include a “generous early voting period” of 28 days, a requirement that overseas and military ballots be mailed 46 days ahead of time and complex requirements for testing voting systems and proofing ballots.
“The federal court or the Legislature must put their foot down,” Poland said. “We need to move beyond Groundhog Day. We need to draw this primary process to a conclusion on August 2nd.”