GOP Rep: Supreme Court should pay for 2nd primary after overturning redistricting maps

By: - April 6, 2022 3:50 am

A ballot drop box is seen outside the Athens County Board of Elections. Photo by Tyler Buchanan, OCJ.

With likelihood growing of state lawmakers establishing a new date for a legislative primary, a freshman Republican proposed requiring the Ohio Supreme Court to fund the roughly $25 million election.

State Rep. Ron Ferguson, R-Wintersville.

State Rep. Ron Ferguson, of Wintersville, unveiled the proposal to reporters on Tuesday. This comes after the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected three sets of maps creating new election district lines, determining them to be unconstitutional gerrymanders unfairly in favor of Republicans. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a conservative, has sided with liberals in a 4-3 bloc throughout.

On Tuesday, early voting began in primary elections for statewide, congressional, and local elections — not state House or Senate races — increasing the odds of a second primary date.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ferguson said the idea isn’t retaliation for the court’s rulings, which have favored Democrats. However, he accused the justices of failing to “prioritize” Ohio hosting a unified election. He contrasted it with the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which worked into the night last week to meet the court’s deadline.

“The Supreme Court certainly didn’t seem to prioritize having a unified primary the way the redistricting commission did,” he said. “I don’t think they were working until the wee hours of the morning for days on end.”

The ORC has missed several constitutional or court-ordered deadlines, which its members blamed on a delay in the arrival of U.S. Census data required to draw the districts or what Secretary of State Frank LaRose called a political “impasse.” Democrats have accused Republican lawmakers, who control the election date via state law, of refusing to move it to mount pressure on the court.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission submitted its fourth map, which is substantially similar to its third, last week. Its members — bipartisan legislative leaders, the governor, the secretary of state and the auditor — also submitted arguments about why they should not be held in contempt of the court.

The new proposal marks a shift from the question of whether Ohio will require a second primary election due to its redistricting mess, toward who will pay for the costs of administering it.

Ferguson said he hasn’t discussed the funding idea with House Speaker Bob Cupp, an ORC member and ranking House Republican. A Cupp spokesman did not respond to an inquiry.

The Supreme Court’s budget for the current fiscal year is about $204 million. The costs of administering a second election are uncertain, but LaRose has estimated a range from $20 million to $25 million.

A court spokeswoman did not respond to an inquiry about the legislation or its ability to fund a primary.

House lawmakers have previously discussed the notion of impeaching O’Connor, though the idea has yet to materialize into a formal bill.



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Jake Zuckerman
Jake Zuckerman

Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.