Voting Blogs: Ohio’s Confusing Republican Ballot | Dan Tokaji/Election Law Blog

Lots of Republicans voting in today’s Ohio primary are confused, and understandably so. The Republican presidential candidates’ names are listed twice on the ballot, once under the heading “For Delegates-at-Large and Alternates-at-Large” and again under “For District Delegates and District Alternates.” If this weren’t enough, different candidates’ names appear under the first and second contests on some Ohio ballots.  Mike Huckabee and/or Rick Santorum, both of whom have withdrawn, will appear on the “District Delegates” contest in some congressional districts but not others (see p. 7 of this directive). What makes this a real head-scratcher is that the state’s Republican primary is winner-take-all, with the highest vote-getter getting all of Ohio’s 66 delegates.  The Secretary of State’s office will reportedly release vote totals for both the “Delegates-at-Large” and “District Delegates” contests, but the state party says that it plans to consider only the at-large delegate vote in determining who gets Ohio’s delegates. And the “District Delegates” contest will appear at the top of page on at least some ballots (like this one), with the “Delegates-at-Large” contest – the one that matters – further down on the left side.  This problem is reminiscent of problematic ballot formats in past elections, like Florida’s 2006 election for the 13th Congressional District, California’s 2003 recall election, and even the infamous butterfly ballot in Florida’s 2000 presidential election.  It’s possible that some voters will inadvertently fail to cast a vote that counts.

So what’s going on here? Why are the Republican presidential candidates listed twice?  Could this confusing ballot have been avoided?  It’s pretty clear that it could have been, though figuring out how this happened – and who’s responsible– is a bit more complicated.

The explanation that’s been offered is that the double-listing of the Republican candidates is a relic from the proportional system used in past elections, which allowed candidates to win delegates at the congressional district level even if they lost statewide.  Last year, Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature enacted a bill, signed by Governor Kasich, which moved the state primary date back to March 15.  That allowed for the state’s Republican delegates to be allocated on a winner-take-all basis pursuant to national Republican Party rules, a change perceived as helpful to Governor Kasich’s campaign given the likelihood that he would win his home state.

The 2015 legislation (HB 153) changed the primary date, the story goes, but didn’t change the law on the ballot language.  That’s true enough, but it doesn’t completely explain the double-listing of candidates.  After all, the Democratic primary ballot lists the candidates only once, even though therelevant statutes don’t differentiate between the two major parties.  Something else must be going on here.

Full Article: Ohio’s Confusing Republican Ballot | Election Law Blog.

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