Ohio Sec. of State issues directive to remove state races from May 3 ballot

By Sam Wildow

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MIAMI COUNTY —It is likely that the state of Ohio will have two primary elections this year after Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive Wednesday night instructing the state’s Boards of Elections to remove state congressional races from the May 3 ballot.

“In the wake of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision last week invalidating the February 24, 2022 General Assembly district plan, it is not possible to include the primary contests for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, and State Central Committee on the May 3, 2022 Primary Election ballot,” LaRose stated in his directive.

This is a continuation of the issues following the state of Ohio unable to create a new set of Ohio Statehouse district maps following the 2020 census. Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a third set of Ohio Statehouse district maps in a 4-3 ruling. No Democrats have supported any of the three plans, and Republican Auditor Keith Faber joined Democrats in opposing the third plan.

The Miami County Board of Elections held its regular meeting Wednesday evening, prior to LaRose’s latest directive on the May 3 ballot.

Laura Bruns, director of the Miami County Board of Elections, updated the board on previous directives from LaRose, including a directive on uniformed and overseas citizens’ absentee ballots. Ohio’s Boards of Elections were instructed to hold off on sending those ballots, and they received authorized from the Department of Defense on Friday permitting those delays. Boards now after until April 5 to send those ballots, and they have to use expedited shipping to send those ballots. Boards also have doubled the time those citizens have to send their ballots back.

“We are literally running out of time,” Bruns said in regard to preparing the May 3 ballot.

The Miami County Board of Elections will receive $2,220 in additional funding from the state to pay for expedited shipping for uniformed and overseas citizens’ absentee ballots. The board currently has nine requests for uniformed and overseas citizens’ absentee ballots, and only two are by mail. The other five will vote over email.

LaRose’s latest directive on Wednesday evening now instructs Ohio’s Boards of Elections to reprogram their election databases and prepare ballots to be ready by April 5, 2022, without the offices of Ohio House, Ohio Senate, or State Central Committee. It is likely that an additional primary election will be held later in the year for Ohio’s residents to vote on the primaries for those offices once a new set of Ohio Statehouse district maps is approved. The potential additional election may be held in August when special elections are typically held.

The Miami County Board of Elections is also receiving over $90,000 in grant funding from the state in order to address costs pertaining to the May 3 election. The grant funding is limited on what the board can spend it on, and whatever is not used has to be returned to the state later this year. Pending approval from the Secretary of State’s Office, the board approved spending approximately $10,000 on GIS services to improve the county’s precinct maps, as well as approximately $11,000 on an automatic paper cutter and approximately $13,000 on a paper counter to improve efficiency.

The board also returned to ongoing discussions regarding using local schools as polling locations and its limited office space. Bruns stated they have visited all of the schools in Miami County. While the smaller school districts appear like they would work well as polling locations, the larger school districts face a number of potential challenges if they are to become polling locations, such as in regard to accessibility, parking, and proximity to voters.

In regard to office space, the board’s office has reorganized items at its current location at the Miami County Courthouse in an effort to stay there with potential plans to move to the Hobart Center for Local Government in the future.

Still to come, the deadline to register to vote in the May 3 election is April 4 at 9 p.m., the first day of early voting is April 5, and the next regular meeting of the Miami County Board of Elections is April 27 at 5 p.m.