EXPLAINER: Why contested cards won’t stop Ohio’s May 3 primary | New Policies

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Despite uncertainty over the date of Ohio’s primary election, the state is ready to move forward with early voting Tuesday for a contest likely May 3 with races to state and congressional, but not legislative.

The by-primary is set to go ahead despite months of unresolved legal wrangling that has seen the proposed redistricting cards repeatedly shot down by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional gerrymanders. The U.S. House races were allowed to continue as court proceedings stalled the last disputed card beyond Election Day.

State legislative races are delayed because no set of district boundaries have been defined long enough to be used to make ballots.

Ohioans must register to vote by Monday unless the judiciary or the legislature intervenes, even as legal challenges continue to pour into state and federal courts.

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A few things to know about the situation:

WHICH RACES WILL APPEAR ON THE MAY 3 BALLOT?

Voters will decide partisan primaries for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, Secretary of State, and various local races and voting issues. The seven-way Republican primary for retired GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s seat is among the nastiest and most expensive in the nation this year, with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump still a long-winded possibility. Three Democrats are also running for the seat, which the party sees as one of its best chances to topple nationally. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine faces three right-wing GOP challengers, while two former mayors — Nan Whaley of Dayton and John Cranley of Cincinnati — are vying for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

WHAT ABOUT LEGISLATIVE RACES?

Candidates for the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate will not appear in the May 3 ballots. A group of Republican voters had asked a federal court to force the state to use one of three sets of legislative maps approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission but rejected by the state Supreme Court, but last week, a panel of federal judges said no. That left contests for senators and state representatives, as well as races for central party committees and state school boards, in limbo.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, wrote to lawmakers that if they did not act by Friday to make changes — which they did not — those races would continue on August 2.

WHY DID OHIO HAVE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH ITS MAPS?

This is the state’s first round of new redistricting rules approved overwhelmingly by voters to stop gerrymandering. Disagreements abound on how the system should work. Beyond that, Republicans who control both the Legislature and the Ohio Redistricting Commission have repeatedly endorsed maps the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional to unduly favor Republicans. Their legislative cards have been invalidated three and more times, and their congressional cards have been challenged in court twice.

WHY HAVE SOME PEOPLE ASKED FOR A DELAY?

Voting rights and Democratic groups — and even, at times, the state election chief and some political candidates — have called for the primary to be delayed to allow time to create acceptable maps. But the Ohio Supreme Court has said it has no power to move the election, and Republican majorities in the Statehouse have so far opted against it.

This has groups of voters concerned.

“Given all the chaos and confusion surrounding redistricting this year, voter registration drives have been limited and most voters don’t know the deadline is Monday,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “The number of voter registrations and the number of poll workers have dropped significantly.”

WHY ARE SOME DISPUTED CARDS USED ON MAY 3 AND OTHERS NOT?

The quick answer is timing. The Ohio Redistricting Commission’s second try at a Congressional constitutional map was challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court. But after the hearing schedule for that case stretched well past the primary, LaRose ruled the card valid for use in the May 3 ballots.

In contrast, disputes over legislative cards have been much more volatile. By the time federal judges made their decision last week on emergency requests to intervene in the primary, time had run out for those candidates to be added to the ballots.

Parties to a separate federal lawsuit over the Congressional Maps on Friday asked judges to also bar US House races under the disputed map.

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