Ohio Politicians Consider Earlier Date for a Meaningful Primary
It is often said in politics that the road to the White House leads through Ohio. But what about the road to the party nomination?
As the election season swings into gear, a rash of states are considering moving their primaries to an earlier date. Not to be left out, Ohio legislators have proposed moving the state’s primary from March 4, 2008 to February 5, according to a recent article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. California recently passed a similar bill, placing its primary only a month after New Hampshire’s, which has historically been the nation’s earliest.
Representative Dennis Ku-cinich (D-OH10), supported by Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH9), is leading the charge in Ohio. Both feel the state stands to benefit if its primary is held before the candidates are chosen in earlier primaries. Although both the backers are Democrats, analysts don’t see this as a particularly partisan proposal.
Professor of Politics Michael Parkin says the benefits of an early primary are clear: “In the general election, Ohio has a lot of power because it’s a swing state, but in terms of actually picking the nominee for the party, Ohio doesn’t.”
Parkin sees a trend beginning as more and more states seek to move up their primaries. “It begs the question of, if states like Ohio move theirs up, does this cause Iowa to go earlier? Are we happy starting two and a half years before election day?” Parkin said.
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner oversees Ohio’s elections. A spokesperson from her office, however, was closed-mouthed on the topic. “Secretary Brunner really hasn’t said anything regarding this issue,” he said.
The final decision to change the date lies with the Ohio State Legislature. According to the Plain Dealer article, however, passing a bill pushing up the primary election is not high on the legislature’s list of priorities.
James Monroe Professor of Politics and Law Ron Kahn said, “The placement of when the primaries are is very, very important to…saying a person has momentum,” meaning that candidates’ viability is judged mainly on the early primaries.
In addition, Kahn said, primaries bring much media attention and money to states and bring the issues important to the state to the front of the discussion.
Oberlin city council chair Dan Gardner is hopeful that the proposal will help Ohio become a larger player on the national electoral stage. “We stand a chance to have more influence in the selection of Democratic and Republican nominees,” he said. “We may get just as much attention as the Iowas and the New Hampshires.”
One potential drawback is that February weather might keep more voters at home than March weather.
While the situation may never become so uncontrolled as to have states holding primaries years before the general election, the trend of states moving their primary election up so as not to be left out is a reflection of the U.S.’s quirky electoral system.
As Parkin put it, “When you allow states to run federal elections, you get a lot of very odd things.”