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Changing municipal primaries to May makes sense for Akron, Cleveland and others: editorial

August 24, 2018

Changing municipal primaries to May makes sense for Akron, Cleveland and others: editorial

Akron’s mayor is on to something important: the advantage of holding municipal primaries in May instead of the fall. 

It would save money; accord with the demands of early voting by ensuring that all voters have an opportunity to participate fully; and give primary victors more time to campaign for the general election in November. 

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville are spearheading a petition drive to get the change on the May ballot. It’s worth supporting.

The Summit County communities of Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls, Green, Norton, New Franklin and Tallmadge also are considering making the move to a May primary. If successful, all Summit County municipalities will be aligned with May primaries.

Cleveland voters and those in the 12 other Cuyahoga County communities that now hold fall primaries should emulate the Summit County move. (Lucas County is the only other Ohio county with September primaries.)

The holdouts on Akron City Council who, by voting no on the issue, have forced the petition drive to get the May primary switch onto the November ballot should be ashamed.

Yes, it’s nice to campaign in the summer. Yes, that may be what the politicians are used to doing.

But holding a primary in September in an era of early voting now risks -- and too often does -- run up against statutory deadlines for November voting. This can mean, for example, that military voters temporarily stationed outside the country cannot get a final ballot in a timely fashion. That’s wrong and needs to be corrected.

Voter turnout in May is also significantly higher as a rule than for the September primary, Horrigan notes.

Akron voters should support the current petition drive and not be distracted by a side effort by two Akron City Council members pushing a possible ballot issue that would eliminate primaries altogether.

Why would the switch to May primaries save money?

The May primary (March in presidential election years) is a standing primary so communities don’t have to pay extra for an additional one. 

Horrigan estimates potential savings for Akron of $84,000 by eliminating the extra primary.

In Cuyahoga County, besides Cleveland mayoral and city council primaries, the following communities still hold primaries in September instead of May, according to the local board of elections: Bay Village; Bedford Heights; Broadview Heights; Brook Park; East Cleveland (mayor only); Fairview Park; Lakewood; Maple Heights; North Olmsted; Rocky River; Seven Hills; and Solon.

Each of these communities should look seriously at switching to May; Cleveland for instance is undergoing a charter review now that could be a vehicle for such a change.

Any such change would have to go before voters, ultimately, to decide.

Shifting to May primaries is a wise move, not just for Akron and Summit County, but also for Cleveland and Cuyahoga County -- and for voters in Toledo and Lucas County, as well. 

Listen to the Aug. 6 editorial board meeting with Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Counci President Margo Sommerville: 

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.   

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