BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — With two days remaining in the court ordered re-draw of the state legislative districts you would think the Ohio Redistricting Commission would be engaged in marathon meetings, but on Tuesday one-seventh of that commission—Secretary of State Frank LaRose—was hosting a series of events in Cuyahoga County. LaRose though assuring News 5 that work on the maps was ongoing.
"Just because there hasn't been a public meeting yet, and let me be clear, I think it would be fine for us to have a public meeting, but the real work of drawing these maps happens at a staff level, Republican staffers and Democratic staffers working together,” LaRose said. “I’ve met with the Democrats, we've met with the Republicans, so those conversations are ongoing.”
Still, News 5 asked LaRose if he felt the commission would meet before Thursday and if they would actually come up with maps.
“I hope so,” he said. “I think that really there are only two outcomes: One is that we pass maps, the other is that there is a determination that it’s not possible to do and that's a possibility, right? You can't violate one part of the constitution in order to comply with another and so there's a question of is it possible to draw those maps that comply with the courts order and do so without violating other provisions. So that's something for the expert map drawers, the GIS experts that work on this kind of thing.”
As the state's chief elections officer, LaRose wasn’t holding back about whether or not a May 3 primary was still possible without these state legislative districts or congressional districts in place.
News 5 asked him what was his absolute cut off date was that he would still feel comfortable holding a May 3 primary.
"I'm going to be candid, that date has already passed,” he said. “With each passing day, it becomes more likely that something will go wrong. With each passing day it becomes more likely that there could be further litigation or a human error that's made. When you rush something you don't do your best work.”
LaRose said the fact there are 90 days between candidates filing to run and election day is for a reason. "Nearly every day of those 90 days is accounted for, people don't realize all the work that goes into running these elections," he said.
Under Ohio law only the legislature can move an election and LaRose has shared his concerns.
Do the math, the commission now has four weeks to draw new congressional districts which almost coincides with when military and overseas voting is scheduled to begin.
“It’s just about four weeks away that we're required by Federal law to start sending those ballots out to my brothers and sisters in the military of serving overseas. We're up against a real time crunch here,” he said. "So with each passing day it becomes less likely that we can give Ohioans that high quality election they deserve.”
"There's a real possibility that the general assembly is going to have to look at whether we can actually conduct an election on May 3rd for those district races," LaRose said. "I sent a letter to them yesterday laying out the challenges and what I've tried to make clear to them is its up to the general assembly to decide what date the election's going to occur, but it's my duty to let them know what risks exist."
Options would include moving the primary for everyone back from May to say June or splitting the primary in two, keep the May 3 date for those county and statewide offices but hold the new district races once they're drawn at a later date which would come at a considerable expense. That decision, again, rests with the Ohio legislature.