When is a primary not a primary?

This question sounds like a riddle. However, the answer is complicated. May 4, 2021, was scheduled for a Westlake primary election but since there are no contested candidates for mayor, president of council, members of council, or law director, there will be no May election. For Bay Village, the primary date for 2021 is Sept. 14. The candidate filing date ends on June 16, so it is too soon to know whether or not there will be a primary election in September.

The longer explanation for this variation lies in the city charters of Bay Village and Westlake. As in other municipalities, Westlake and Bay Village have charter provisions that eliminate a primary when there are positions on the would-be ballot that have only one or two candidates. The charter wording varies but the rule is the same in both cities.

Specifically, the Bay Village charter says: “regular municipal elections shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the odd numbered years. Primary elections, if necessary, shall be held on the second (2nd) Tuesday in September prior to the general election date in the odd numbered year. (Section 11.1 – Municipal Elections)

In addition, the Bay Village Charter states that “In the event that no more than two candidates file petitions for the aforesaid offices, then there shall be no primary election for these offices, and these candidates shall be designated candidates for the Regular Municipal Election.” (Section 11.3 - Nonpartisan Ballots/Primary Elections)

Westlake’s charter wording is that “In case there shall not be for any office more than two (2) persons who have filed petitions as provided for in this Charter to be candidates at such primary election, then said persons shall be nominated as the candidates at the next succeeding regular municipal election and the primary for that particular office shall not be held. (Section 2. Nonpartisan Primary Elections)

The Westlake charter also clearly states that “write-in votes for a municipal candidate in the City of Westlake shall not be permitted at a general election unless no person files for a particular municipal office and no person is duly nominated at a municipal primary.”

For both cities, the procedures for filing as a write-in are determined by the laws of the State of Ohio and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Those considering running as a write-in must consult those sources.

Both Bay Village and Westlake have school board positions that are up for a vote in 2021. The Ohio Revised Code requires local school districts to prepare and approve election procedures that call for primary elections to take place only if the number of candidates for nomination for a position on that board, as verified by the board of elections, is at least one more than two times the number of available positions on that board at the general election.

In brief, since there are only two certified candidates for Board of Education in Westlake, they will appear on the November 2, 2021, General Election ballot. The filing deadline for Board of Education candidates for Bay Village is June 16 and at that point the decision about whether the candidates will be voted on in a Primary Election will be made.


Chair, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter, League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland

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Volume 13, Issue 8, Posted 10:48 AM, 04.20.2021