Ohio election officials: ‘Grave concerns’ for May 3 primary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2022

COLUMBUS (AP) — County election officials in Ohio raised serious questions Monday about their ability to carry out a successful primary election on May 3, citing the already tight timeline due to still-unresolved state legislative maps.

Leaders of the Ohio Association of Election Officials strongly urged Republican Senate President Matt Huffman to delay the primary, as a once-per-decade political mapmaking process that was envisioned to be done by fall drags well into 2022.

“This confluence of circumstances causes grave concerns on the part of election officials,” the association’s president, Brian Sleeth, and vice president, Sherry Poland, wrote. “As the ultimate arbiter of the time, manner and place of elections in Ohio, the General Assembly should be concerned as well.”

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Sleeth and Poland, the respective directors of elections in Warren and Hamilton counties, said many of Ohio’s 88 counties “no longer have the ability to run a successful May 3rd election, and more counties lose that ability each day.”

Huffman’s spokesman John Fortney noted the Ohio Redistricting Commission is scheduled to meet again Tuesday and may discuss the issue there.

On Saturday, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered county boards to begin adding the names of legislative and party central committee candidates to ballots — despite maps of Ohio House and Senate districts that underlie those elections continuing to be opposed in court.

Huffman and Republican Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp required LaRose to proceed with the ballots in a letter sent Friday, a day after the third set of legislative maps was approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

He, like the election officials, raised concerns about the risks of rushing the meticulous series of steps that leads up to each election. LaRose also has asked for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Defense seeking more time to prepare and deliver military ballots.

Democratic Secretary of State candidate Chelsea Clark accused LaRose of caving to the wishes of Republican leaders over the best interests of Ohio voters.

“As a result, the person charged with ensuring trust in our state’s election processes is once again putting his future ambition ahead of his solemn duties,” she said in a statement.