School districts stuck in the middle of primary election mess

School districts stuck in the middle of primary election mess
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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GENOA, Ohio (WTVG) - Amid all the confusion of statehouse maps, congressional maps, and election days -- area school districts are waiting to see when voters will have their say on school issues.

May 3rd is still set for primary election day and some area schools have levies on the ballot, but what happens if election day is changed?

It’s an issue out of the hands of local election officials not just here in Lucas County, but all over Ohio. We could be looking at two primary election dates or the one singular one being moved -- leaving many, including kids, in the middle.

Voters in Genoa Schools will see two school levies on the May primary ballot. One is an emergency levy and one for technology, assuming that the primary election actually happens in May.

“We’ve got to move forward based on may 3rd and hope for the best,” said Genoa Superintendent Michael Furguson.

Superintendent Furguson says the district can’t wait for a ruling on state house and senate map decisions to start really pushing their levy. If those maps aren’t settled, the most recent guidance from the Secretary of State is that House and Senate races will be left off the ballot.

Other candidates and schools will stay on May 3rd. For Genoa, that timing is key for lots of reasons.

“We’ve got staff on a riff list, a reduction in force list that are waiting to see if they have jobs. And May is pretty late in education to be finding a job. And August is almost impossible,” said Furguson.

You’re hearing August because if the state legislature decides to move the entire primary, some believe it may not occur until August or September.

There’s another complicating factor. If the election is pushed back to September, Genoa needs to know the outcome of the levy to figure out if it can run bus service for every kid in the district. According to Superintendent Ferguson, state law says that if you start the school year giving the kids transportation, you’ve got to finish it. If they don’t decide on the money until September, how do you pay for it?

“The uncertainty does make our work difficult,” said Swanton Schools Superintendent Chris Lake.

They’re waiting and watching in Swanton, too, where voters will see a renewal levy whenever the election happen. Superintendent Lake says May voter turnout is typically low so they need to really target their message at the right time. Targeting begins with a firm schedule.

“We’re kinda used to it in the education business of living in this realm of uncertainty. We call it building the airplane in flight,” said Lake.

The legislature is the only group that can move an election date. So that will be where to watch next.

Will the legislature allow two primary election days? One without state and House races and one without? That’s going to come with a cost of several million dollars.

Or would the legislature move it all back to one day?

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