-by Howard Wilkinson
October 16, 2011- The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to allow Democrats to go forward with a petition drive to stop the Republican congressional redistricting plan has thrown the 2012 congressional elections into chaos.
Candidates for Congress – incumbents and challengers, Republicans and Democrats – will have to sit on their hands for a while to see when they should file and if the districts they planned to file in will even exist.
It is not entirely clear yet, but it would appear now that congressional candidates will file petitions by the Dec. 7 deadline for districts that may no longer exist by the planned March 6 primary.
Or they could be forced to run in a statewide primary election for Ohio’s 16 U.S. House seats, where the top 16 Republicans face the top 16 finishing Democrats in the November 2012 election.
Or they could end up in running in vastly different-looking districts than they had expected to, if legislative Republicans and Democrats can work out a solution to the impasse.
Matt McClellan, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who wanted to stop the petition drive, told The Enquirer on Saturday that the ruling threw “a monkey wrench” into not only the congressional candidate filing deadline, but the deadline for presidential candidates.
If the March 6 date holds, the primary would be held on “Super Tuesday,” when several other states – Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee among them – will be holding presidential primaries. If the primary was moved back to May, the filing deadline could be pushed back and the primary could lose much of its significance in the national GOP race.
“We just don’t know the answer yet,” McClellan said.
The only thing that could stop the chaos is if Republicans go to Democrats in the legislature and work out a new plan – one that does not, as independent analyses have shown, give the GOP a 12-4 advantage in the state’s 16 congressional districts.
“The ball is in the Republicans’ court now,” said Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern, who will head the petition drive to collect 231,147 valid voter signatures to put the GOP’ congressional redistricting plan on the November 2012 ballot.
If he succeeds in getting that many valid signatures in 90 days, it would put the GOP redistricting plan passed in September by the Ohio General Assembly on hold and force an election where candidates for Congress have to run statewide next year.