The 2011 primary election is more than two months away, but Ohio's 2012 primary - and when it should be held - is already a topic of discussion.
The Buckeye State's primaries are held in May, except in presidential election years, when the date gets moved up to March. The major reason for that is to ensure Ohio voters don't get left out of the nominating process as other states hold their primaries and caucuses even earlier.
But some worry leaving the primary on its scheduled date of March 6, 2012, will be problematic, since data from the 2010 census means federal and state legislative districts, even voting precincts, are subject to change this year.
Ohio's loss in population from 2000 to 2010 reduced the state's number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from 18 to 16. The General Assembly must approve new congressional districts for seats that will be on the 2012 ballot.
In addition, the state apportionment board will be redrawing state legislative lines.
Having a March primary "moves everything up," said Maggie Ostrowski, communications director for Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, the state's chief election officer. "For boards of elections, the work begins when the lines are drawn."
About Ohio's primary elections
Ohio's primary elections are usually held in May.
In presidential election years, the primary moves to March.
Some say the earlier date gives Ohio voters more of a say in selecting a party's presidential nominee.
With the state poised to redraw legislative boundaries after the 2010 census, some favor pushing the 2012 primary back to May.
To be on the ballot in March, candidates would have to file petitions to run early in December. Right now, the boundaries and even numbers of the districts in which legislative candidates would run have not been established.
Ostrowski noted the state districts are required by the Ohio Constitution to be set by Oct. 5, but there's no deadline for congressional districts.
The Ohio Democratic Party favors pushing the primary back to May "in order to allow voters ample opportunity to get to know the candidates in that primary," said Seth Bringman, communications director for the party.
Calls to the Ohio Republican Party were not returned, but Chairman Kevin DeWine told The Columbus Dispatch last month that he wants the primary to stay in March so Ohioans won't miss out on "a vigorous Republican primary." While President Barack Obama will almost certainly be the Democrats' nominee, the Republican field remains wide open.
Ostrowski said Husted is leaving it up to the General Assembly whether to move the primary. His goal is to inform them of the challenges election boards will face in the process.
Peggy Byers, director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said her office will do its best to work with whichever date is selected.
Edna Ely, 69, of the Barlow-Vincent area, thinks waiting until May is the way to go.
"March would be too early. I can't find out about the ones (who are) running," she said.
Ely said she wasn't concerned that a presidential candidate might already have his party's nomination sewn up by the time Ohio's primary rolls around.
"Every vote might change that," she said.
Warren Township resident Robert Sadler, 57, also favors a later primary and has a solution to the problem of some states having more influence than others.
"I personally think there ought to be a national primary, all on the same day," he said.
State Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, said she understands the desire to have an earlier primary during a presidential election. Still, she's concerned the time frame would be too short, especially if legal challenges delay redistricting.
"Given the fact that so many things about elections end up being litigated these days, we may well need that time," she said.
Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, said he hasn't decided which primary date he would support but acknowledges all the changes coming might necessitate a delay.
"I'm always flexible if that makes it better for voters," he said.