From the New York Times:
Every Republican primary voter in Ohio has two opportunities to vote for president, in a ballot twist that’s only escalating the potential confusion caused by the party’s large and fractious field of candidates.
GOP ballots for the March 15 primary feature two boxes for president, one for designating an at-large presidential delegate and one for designating a delegate for the voter’s congressional district. It’s a carry-over from a time when Ohio’s Republican vote was divided proportionally, rather than in the winner-take-all fashion being used in 2016.
The Secretary of State’s office says both boxes will be tallied. However, Republicans say only the at-large vote will count.
Further complicating matters? Ballots still list 11 Republican at-large presidential candidates and up to 10 district candidates. Only four remain in the primary race.
Here’s what the ballot looks like to voters (see full ballot here):
Are Ohio voters supposed to check the top box if they want their candidate to “win” Ohio? Will checking both boxes get their guy an extra vote? Voters likely have no idea, thanks to these confusing ballots. If they fear double voting and only choose a candidate in the bottom section, it sounds like their vote will not be counted for the GOP presidential primary.
To make matters worse, it appears that Ohio election officials have no idea what to tell voters with questions:
Early voting is already underway in Ohio. Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is likely running for governor, reports that 70,000 votes have already been cast ahead of the state’s March 15 primary.
For the sake of comparison, here’s the easy peasy Democrat ballot:
The bungled ballots don’t reflect well on administration of self-professed, super-competent Governor John Kasich. He may have very well turned what was a simple, winner-take-all primary into a legal battle of hanging chad proportions.
UPDATE: Ohio Republican Party spokeswoman Brittany Warner said, “Because there are two pathways to selecting delegates to represent Ohio at the convention, voters must vote twice – once for the congressional district delegate and once for delegate at-large. The votes that will be counted to determine the results are the delegates at-large.”
I spent ten years as a poll worker in Ohio and can tell you that ballots here can be ridiculously complicated. Voters are very often confused about what should be a very simple yes/no, this guy/that guy process. State elections officials often go out of their way to make the language complicated, especially on ballot issues where they’re trying to outmaneuver special interest groups. Voters take one look and their eyes glaze over or they throw their hand up in disgust.
Without a doubt, some people are only going to vote for their candidate once on these ballots because they will be concerned about their vote not counting if they vote twice. If they choose to only vote in the congressional district delegate section, their vote for a presidential nominee will not be counted to determine the winner in Ohio on March 15. Some will undoubtedly come back after the election and say they were disenfranchised by a ballot that looked like it was asking them to vote twice for the same office. While voters ought to be responsible and educated about how the electoral process works, the state (and the political parties) shouldn’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.