Unless Republicans compromise soon, Ohio taxpayers will spend $30 million to hold two primary elections in 2012 – $15 million each for one in March for state legislative candidates and one in June for congressional candidates. If two primary elections strike you as wasteful and wholly unnecessary, you’re in good company. The editorial pages of most of Ohio’s daily newspapers agree.
So why two primaries? One word: politics.
The delay until June is aimed at preserving GOP-drawn Congressional maps that are currently the subject of a possible referendum. But, instead of moving the selection of state and local candidates back to the June date, legislators kept both dates, adding enormously to the workload of already-strapped County Boards of Elections. As the Columbus Dispatch put it in their November 22 editorial:
Two primary elections, imposing millions in extra costs on taxpayers, plus the confusion of preparing for a June primary even as county boards of election are cleaning up the details of the March primary? Not to mention subjecting the public to two rounds of political ads and robocalls? That’s voter abuse.
The General Assembly should spare taxpayers and voters such nonsense. Lawmakers should agree on a reasonable map, then do away with the two-primary plan.
The bill contained no direct appropriation to reimburse local governments for holding a second primary, merely intent language to do so. With the state budget already strained, it is unclear where the additional money would come from.
That Ohio Republicans do not embarrass easily – even in the face of blistering editorials from the Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator, and Cleveland Plain Dealer and the aforementioned bastion of conservative thought, the Columbus Dispatch – is hardly a revelation.
What’s curious, however, is the deafening silence coming from organizations like COAST and the Tea Party which never tire of telling us how much they hate “government waste.” Especially since there’s such an easy, one-word way out of this mess: compromise.
Of course, to the Tea Party there’s only one thing worse than government waste. And that’s political compromise.