Primary Elections in Ohio

A primary election is an election used either to narrow the field of candidates for a given elective office or to determine the nominees for political parties in advance of a general election.

Primary elections can take several different forms in Ohio. The methods employed to determine the outcome of the primary can also vary from city to city, or district to district.

In a partisan primary, voters select a candidate to be a political party’s nominee(s) for a given office in the November general election.

Nonpartisan primaries are used to narrow the field of candidates for nonpartisan offices in advance of a general election.

In Ohio, the law provides for open primaries, meaning voters do not have to register with a party to participate in its primary. Voters select the ballot of the party whose primary they wish to vote in at the polling place.

Winners in Ohio primary elections are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate with the highest number of votes wins, even if she did not win an outright majority of votes cast.

You can vote for more than one candidate? Yes, sometimes!

In many at-large and school board races, each voter selects up to X candidates on the ballot. In nonpartisan races, voters are commonly permitted to cast their votes across more than one party list. The X candidates with the most votes (who may or may not obtain a majority of available votes) are the winners and will fill the positions, or move on to the general election. See below for an example of a race structured this way. 


Plurality-at-large example

The Matriotstown City Council consists of three seats, and seven candidates are vying for these seats. Voters each select a maximum of three candidates.

Election results
Candidate Votes
Susan 1,250
Ida 800
Elizabeth 650
Alice 600
Lucy 500
Millicent 400
Lucretia 300

Since Susan, Ida, and Elizabeth received the most votes, they will comprise the Matriotstown City Council. If this were a primary, Susan, Ida and Elizabeth would advance to the general election. Susan and Ida each obtained a majority of the maximum 1,500 votes available per candidate; Elizabeth obtained only a plurality. In most races in Ohio, only a plurality is necessary.


Across the state, many races in 2019 will move directly to the general election. If a race either: (1) a nonpartisan election which waived the primary, or (2) the race includes candidates who do not have a primary opponent, the race will move directly to the general election on November 5th, 2019.


Primary Election Key Dates

April 8th, 2019: register to vote for the May 7,  2019 primary election. Click here to register to vote.

April 9th, 2019: Absentee and Early In-person voting begin. Click here to find your county’s early voting center. 

May 4th, 2019: Deadline to request an absentee ballot. 

May 7th, 2019: Primary Election (polls are open from 6:30 am – 7:30 pm)


Join The Matriots PAC today to help support our Class of 2019 candidates. Your investment will help advance female candidates to the general election and prepare to endorse, support and encourage more female candidates in 2020 and beyond. 

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