Early voting begins today in sparse second primary set for August

·4 min read
A banner announcing “Vote Here Today” hangs outside the Portage County Board of Elections offices in Ravenna.
A banner announcing “Vote Here Today” hangs outside the Portage County Board of Elections offices in Ravenna.

There isn't much on the ballot, but the second of Ohio's primary elections, delayed because of the lengthy and contentious redistricting process, takes place Aug. 2, and early voting begins today.

More: Confusion over Portage primary elections as early voting set to begin

More: Early voting starts Wednesday but primary confusion and conflict are already underway

Portage County voters will consider party candidates for the newly redrawn Ohio House of Representatives as well as candidates for State Central Committee.

A separate primary for state elections isn't normal, but delays in drawing new district maps for these races pushed the primary out of May and into August.

The state House and Senate districts for all these candidates have twice been ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court and holding a second primary on Aug. 2 will cost taxpayers around $20 million.

Federal judges selected these maps for Ohio's 2022 elections and set a primary for Aug. 2.
Federal judges selected these maps for Ohio's 2022 elections and set a primary for Aug. 2.

Who is on the August primary ballot in Portage?

Democrats in the 72nd District of the Ohio House of Representative will see former State Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent, while Republicans will have a chance to vote for Gail Pavliga of Atwater. Because neither has opposition in the primary, the two will face off in November. Pavliga currently represents the 75th District, which includes most of Portage County, but not the northern tier including Aurora, Garrettsville and Mantua. The new 72nd District includes most of Portage County, including Ravenna, Kent, Streetsboro, Aurora, Hiram, Mantua, Rootstown and parts of Randolph. The district does not include most of the county's southern tier or parts of eastern Portage.

In the 35th District, which includes some of the southern portion of Portage County in addition to parts of Summit, Democrats will see Lori O'Neill of Bainbridge on their ballot while Republicans will see Steve Demetriou of Chagrin Falls. Again, because neither has opposition in the primary, the two will face off in November. The new 35th District includes Atwater, Brimfield, Deerfield, Garrettsville, Palmyra, Paris Township, parts of Randolph, Suffield and Windham.

In addition, both Democrats and Republicans will have a chance to elect one man and one woman to their party's State Central Committee. Those races are contested.

Why are we having a second primary?

The drawing of new maps for Ohio's 99 House seats and 33 Senate seats was supposed to be done late last year, leaving plenty of time for candidates to review the new lines before the February 2022 filing deadline.

But that's not what happened.

The Republican majority on Ohio's Redistricting Commission submitted five sets of maps, and the state Supreme Court ruled every single one unconstitutional.

No constitutional set of maps exists as of yet, but a trio of federal judges ordered Ohio to use the third set for 2022 only. And the problem, according to Democrats, is that those maps were drawn in March – after Republicans saw exactly where Democratic candidates planned to run.

A spokesman for House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, however, said Republicans didn't use Democrats' addresses when drafting districts.

Low turnout expected

Between vacations and summer camps and back-to-school preparations, Ohio election officials expect turnout in the August primary to be extremely low.

University of Cincinnati political professor David Niven said a 10% turnout would be "shockingly high."

"These candidates are literally tracking down every person they know," he said. "This is a friends, family and next-door neighbors kind of election.”

Candidates didn't know what districts they were running in when they filed. Ohioans aren't used to voting in an August primary. And the primary races that typically garner the most attention (governor, U.S. Senate, Congress) were decided in May.

"Ironically, of course, it’s state legislatures that rule the world now...," Niven said. "We could be electing people who ban all abortion in Ohio. We could be electing people who literally decide the next presidential election."

When can I vote before Election Day?

Early voting will take place at the Portage County Board of Elections, 449 S. Meridian St., room. 101, between 8 and 5 p.m. until July 25, when hours will be extended until 7 p.m. with weekend voting also available. Those interested in having an absentee ballot mailed to them should call the board of elections at 330-297-3511.

Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com. Anna Staver, a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Portage voters can begin casting ballots today in August primary