COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Rep. Daniel Troy wants to etch into Ohioans’ calendars a consistent, unmoving date for the state’s primary election.

Citing a need to quell voter confusion and shorten Ohio’s lengthy election cycle, the Willowick Democrat on Thursday proposed legislation that would set Ohio’s primary date in presidential election years as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May – mirroring the same schedule for years like 2023 when a president is not on the ballot.

“People know that Christmas is on December 25. People know that the Fourth of July is on the Fourth of July,” Troy said. “They will also know that the primary election every year – whether it’s an odd-numbered year, an even-numbered year, presidential or non-presidential – is going to be that first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.”

Rep. Daniel Troy (D-Willowick) (Courtesy Photo/Ohio General Assembly)

In recent years, Ohio’s presidential primary has been held in mid-March, ostensibly to bolster the state’s influence as a player in the primary process. The 2008 primary fell on March 8. The 2012 primary was on March 6, and 2016 and 2020 also had a March primary.

But Troy called Ohio’s rush to be a participant in Super Tuesday, typically a February or March day that’s most jampacked with primaries across the country, is “dubious at best.” 

“The one time we were a prominent player – and I’ve been around a long time – was when Jimmy Carter was nominated in 1976,” he said. “And our primary wasn’t until the first Tuesday in June that year.”

Minimizes voter confusion

Simplifying the primary presidential election date to one, unchanging spring day will help minimize voter confusion, Troy said, as it’s acted like a “moving target” for too many years.”

“Having this date on the presidential year as the same date as we have it on the three other years that are not presidential election years, just will make it easier for our elections officials and certainly easier for voters to understand and participate, ” Troy said.

Most recently, Ohio’s presidential primary election was originally scheduled on St. Patrick’s Day, said Paul Adams, first vice president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, in support of moving the primary date to May.

“You know, March 17 is a dangerous date to hold an election,” Troy said. “We do want our voters to be clearheaded when they go in to vote.”

Eases campaign timeline for candidates

Extending the primary date back from March to May provides candidates with more time to petition to be on the November ballot, Troy said. In a March presidential primary, candidates would be required to file nearly 11 months before the November general.

More time to redraw the maps

Troy pointed to Ohio’s months-long, failed redistricting process that resulted in two primary elections in 2022 – one on May 3, featuring federal and statewide candidates, and a second on Aug. 2 for state General Assembly candidates. Voter turnout in the latter fell below 8% and cost around $25 million, according to the secretary of state.

“There’s going to be a little bit more time to get all those ducks in a row, and God forbid we have two primaries like we had in 2022,” Troy said.

Shortens the election season

Moving the date to May would shorten the primary election season by a few months, Troy said, and potentially reduce the barrage of political advertisements lauded between the two primary candidates.

Troy said the state shouldn’t cater to the theatrical “cadre” of the U.S. national nominating convention in scheduling its elections, but instead to Ohio voters.

“Maybe we can spend a little bit more time governing and a little less time politicking,” he said.

Troy said he hopes the proposal, which has yet to receive a bill number, passes through the General Assembly before June to give elections officials, candidates, poll workers and other stakeholders time to adapt. It has support from a slate of nine lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, and the Ohio Association of Elections Officials, he said.