Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill to Move Presidential Primary Back Three Weeks

By a vote of 39-2, the Oklahoma state Senate passed SB 233 on Tuesday, March 3. The measure would shift the presidential primary in the Sooner state from the first Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in March.

In 2016, that would mean moving out of the proposed SEC primary slot on March 1 and to March 22. That spot on the calendar is currently occupied by only Arizona. Utah legislation would make that date an option in the Beehive state if passed as well.

The legislation now moves on to the Oklahoma state House.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing news of the bill's passage on to FHQ.

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Bill to Move Illinois Presidential Primary from March to July Introduced

A second bill to shift back the date of the Illinois consolidated primary has been introduced in the state House. Instead of moving it back to June like the other bill, though, HB 3107 would push the Illinois primary -- including the presidential primary -- back to the third Tuesday in July.

Now, obviously the bill from Rep. Steve Andersson (R-65th, Geneva) is problematic. If this bill were to pass the legislature and be signed into law, the Illinois presidential primary would fall (July 19) on the same week that the Republican National Convention will be going on in Cleveland. Choosing delegates in an election on a date during the week of the convention those delegates are to attend is not all that logistically feasible. The conflict would run into the same difficulties as the August Montana primary proposal FHQ discussed last week. In the case of Illinois, however, the delegates actually appear on the primary ballot and are chosen in that manner rather than selected in caucuses and bound by primary results. That is a unique wrinkle in Illinois that would make implementing a change to a July primary even more difficult.

The June primary idea has been floated in the Illinois legislature previously and went nowhere. And as FHQ detailed in the Montana primary discussion last week, proposals calling for a presidential primary during or after a national convention has already occurred have been brought forth in the past, but none of them have successfully navigated through a legislature, much less been signed into law.

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The Slippery Slope in North Carolina Rogue Primary Coverage

There is one narrative that seems to be emerging in the coverage of the North Carolina presidential primary drama that is not necessarily true to the spirit of the legislative wrangling that brought the Tar Heel state into the crosshairs of the national parties. It goes something like this:
"Two years ago lawmakers decided to make the primary earlier - on the first Tuesday after South Carolina's, next February. State GOP Chairman Claude Pope now wants the primary moved to March 1st. He says the national Republican Party is threatening to take away delegates from North Carolina for the earlier primary."
Now, FHQ does not want to pick on WUNC's Jeff Tiberii. His piece is a short blog post -- and he is certainly not alone in this -- but it is representative of the direction some of the other media coverage on the North Carolina presidential primary situation is going. The implication is that decision-makers in North Carolina just cannot make up their minds. They were for an early presidential primary before they were against it.

Yes, legislators in Raleigh passed HB 589 in the summer of 2013. And yes, it moved the presidential primary out of May, tethering it to the likely February South Carolina primary. But decision-makers in North Carolina have not suddenly in 2015 found religion and awakened to the possibility of sanctions from the Republican National Committee.

Those penalties -- the so-called super penalty -- were in place coming out of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. And though the penalty was tweaked between that time and the summer of 2014 when the RNC finalized its delegate rules for 2016, how North Carolina would have been affected by the penalty -- assuming a rogue primary date -- never changed. Additionally, Rep. David Lewis (R-53rd, Harnett) was in the state House and was North Carolina Republicans' national committeeman representative on the RNC.1

Overall, though, this North Carolina dilemma is less a story of legislative indecision than it is a story of legislative process. The 2013 omnibus elections bill -- HB 589 -- originated in the North Carolina House. The version that passed the state House did not contain any language affecting the positioning of the North Carolina presidential primary. It was not until the bill got to the state Senate that the presidential primary provision was added.

There are two other important elements to this that help set the context in 2013. First, the bill was controversial and ladened with changes to the way elections would subsequently be conducted in North Carolina. Provisions cutting back on the number of days of early voting and requiring a photo ID were the big ticket items and received exponentially more scrutiny. The presidential primary portion of the lengthy bill was at best an afterthought. In combination with that was the timing of all of this. The state Senate committee substitute to the House-passed bill hit the floor of the Senate for consideration with the clock running out on the 2013 legislative session. Republicans in control of the legislature wanted to pass something and send some elections changes to the new-in-2013 Republican governor's desk to be signed into law.

Here is a situation, then, where you have a throwaway primary provision in a bill that is being considered in an environment in which legislators are rushing to pass something, anything to change up the elections system in North Carolina.

The state Senate passed the bill after 5PM on the final day of the session. The bill then went to the House, which had to either concur with the Senate changes -- including the presidential primary provision -- or tweak those changes and send the bill back to the Senate. Again, the House got this bill after 5PM on the last day of the session. To concur meant to go home. Amending the Senate changes, however, meant prolonging the process even further.

That was the decision the representatives in the state House faced. Agree and go home or change and keep at it into the night. They chose the former, passing the bill along party lines and calling it a session.

Again, this isn't a story about indecision. If anything this further extends the battle lines that are drawn between the North Carolina House and Senate. The state Senate added the primary provision in 2013 and is defending it now. Members in the House may or may not have wanted to go along with that at the time. Those in the House and the North Carolina Republican Party may regret that decision now, but that is not part of some flip-flop they have done on the scheduling of the North Carolina presidential primary.

1 How well known those RNC penalties were to legislators at the time of the bill's passage is an unknown in all of this. In the immediate aftermath of the bill being signed into law, some North Carolina senators were already defiant.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

March 15 Presidential Primary Bill Sails Through Florida House Committee

The Florida state legislature does not officially convene its 2015 session until tomorrow (Tuesday, March 3), but the process for pre-filing bills began weeks ago and committee work has started as well. In the state House today (Monday, March 2), that committee work included consideration of a bill to officially set the date of the Florida presidential primary for March 15.1

The Florida House Rules, Calendar and Ethics Committee unanimously passed PCB RCEC 15-05 this afternoon with no discussion and no debate.2 It was not controversial to say the least. This is basically a committee-sponsored bill that will now be assigned a House bill number. The committee chair, Rep. Ritch Workman (R-52nd, Melbourne), spoke on behalf of the bill and will likely be the sponsor.

This House legislation mirrors the bill introduced in the Florida state Senate last week.

1 Technically, under current state law, the primary would be scheduled for March 15 anyway.

2 PCB RCEC is Proposed Committee Bill from the Rules, Calendar and Ethics Committee.

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County Elections Officials in Arkansas Mostly Supportive of SEC Primary Move

FHQ has mentioned more than once that moving the Arkansas presidential primary up from May to the SEC primary date in March would be more difficult than other southern states seeking to join the regional primary.1

Any resistance that does exist to SB 389 does not seem to extend to those -- in the Arkansas county Boards of Elections -- who will be tasked with administering the proposed March 1 primary election in 2016 nor to state legislators. At least in the populous far northwestern corner of the Natural state, there is no real fervent opposition to joining the SEC primary.

The most obstruction to the SEC primary move Dan Holtmeyer at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette could find had more to do with certifying candidates over Christmas than the March primary itself.
[Washington County election coordinator Jennifer] Price said the primary itself wouldn't be a problem; her concern is it would push candidate certification and ballot draws 75 days before the primary, or into the holidays in late December, which could be more difficult with fewer election workers around.  
"People kind of disappear over Christmas," Price said. She suggested allowing ballot draws and other requirements to take place in early December.
Even the area state senator who sponsored legislation in the state House in 2009 to eliminate the separate presidential primary election and move it back to the May primary is open to supporting the shift to March. According to Holtmeyer, that support comes with something of a contingency:
"We quickly went to the back burner [in 2008] because it didn't matter," said [State Senator Jon] Woods, who led the effort in the House to return the primary to May in 2009 and is part of the Senate committee that will consider SB 389. He said he might support moving primaries if local races are moved as well, but for now, "I'm not sure I'm really sold on it." [Emphasis FHQ's]
Of course, moving all the primaries to March would mean that the primaries for state legislators would overlap with the legislative session, something that has been frowned on in Arkansas in the past. That has been another impediment to primary movement in Arkansas.

1 The snag is a function of the resistance to moving the consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- from the typical May position to March or facing the alternative of creating and funding a new and separate election for the presidential primary.

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Is the Florida Republican Presidential Primary Winner-Take-All?

That all depends.

By all accounts, there is momentum in Florida to facilitate the conditions under which a winner-take-all presidential primary can take place in 2016. The Republican Party of Florida chair likes the idea of a winner-take-all method of delegate allocation. The Republican-controlled state legislature in the Sunshine state is moving to create some long-absent certainty with the primary date. That -- setting the primary date specifically for March 15 -- would allow Florida Republicans to allocate the 99 delegates apportioned them in a winner-take-all fashion under the Republican National Committee rules governing the 2016 presidential nomination process.

But will Florida Republicans allocate all 99 delegates to the winner of the 2016 presidential primary?

That remains to be seen. And it would actually require a rules change on the state party level in order to make that happen. The delegate allocation plans used in both 2008 and 2012 were only truly winner-take-all in the event that the Republican Party of Florida was penalized by the RNC.1 The non-compliant January primary triggered that state party provision in 2008 and history repeated itself four years later in 2012 when Florida again defied the RNC rules and held a January primary.2

Under the rules used in 2012, Florida Republicans would not allocate all of their delegates to the winner of the presidential primary. Instead the allocation would be a bit more complicated.

To fully explain this, we need to look at how delegates are apportioned to the each of the states from the Republican National Committee.3 The formula used by the RNC gives three (3) delegates for each congressional district in a state and ten (10) at-large delegates.4 Additionally, states receive bonus delegates for a recent history of voting with the Republican Party. This provides a greater voice to loyally Republican states at least as compared to states that are either more competitive between the two major parties or are more Democratic. A good illustration of this is that in 2012 a more populous yet more competitive state like Ohio had fewer total delegates than a slightly less populous yet more Republican state like Georgia. Those bonus delegates are tacked onto the at-large total.

The important factor to note here is that there is a distinction between at-large and congressional district delegates.

Of the states that have delegate allocation plans somewhere on the spectrum between truly winner-take-all rules and truly proportional rules, a number tend to allocate the three congressional district delegates to the winner of the congressional district and then allocate the at-large delegates either proportionally or winner-take-all based on the statewide vote.5 Those states, then, draw that distinction between congressional district and at-large delegates in their allocation plans as derived from the RNC apportionment.

Importantly, Florida has not followed that pattern in the last two presidential election cycles. And that would have been true with or without the sanctions from the RNC. With the penalties, the Florida delegate selection rules called for a winner-take-all allocation of the full delegation to the winner of the statewide primary. All of those delegates were considered at-large.

But let's assume for a moment for the sake of this exercise that Florida was not penalized in 2008 or 2012. The truly winner-take-all provision would not have been triggered and the Florida delegate allocation would have looked different. Neither McCain nor Romney would have won the full (yet reduced due to penalty) delegation. Yet, the allocation in Florida would not have resembled RNC apportionment-derived type of allocation described above.

Instead, Florida would have used a different formula. Assuming no penalties from the RNC, Florida Republicans would have considered one-third of its total allotment of delegates to have been at-large. The remaining two-thirds would have been deemed congressional district delegates.

That is all different from the RNC apportionment-derived method used in most other states. To illustrate, consider this: Florida will have 99 delegates for the 2016 cycle. If Florida was like other states, Republicans there would be apportioned 81 congressional district delegates (3 delegates per each of 27 congressional districts) by the RNC and the remaining 18 would be at-large delegates. Most states using a winner-take-all by congressional district method would treat the congressional district-apportioned delegates as congressional district delegates. In other words, if a candidate wins the district, then the the winning candidate is awarded three delegates.

Florida Republicans do not sync their congressional district-apportioned delegates with the allocation of what they call congressional district delegates.

Under the one-third/two-thirds method Florida Republicans would have used in the even they were not sanctioned in 2008 or 2012, the ratio of congressional district delegates to at-large delegates would be different. As an example, let's use the same 99 delegate total from above.
  • One third of that total comprises the at-large pool of delegates. 33 at-large delegates.
  • The remaining two-thirds are congressional district delegates. 66 congressional district delegates.
  • However, 66 congressional district delegates are not able to be evenly distributed across 27 congressional districts. The rounding down mentioned above matter less in the aggregate total than it does at this point in the calculation. 66/27 = 2.44 delegates per congressional district. That number is rounded down and the remainder is added to the at-large pool of delegates. 
  • So, that essentially equates to two (2) delegates per each of the 27 congressional district in Florida. (2.44-0.44)*27 = 54 congressional district delegates.
  • That remainder is then added to the at-large pool. 33 original at-large delegates + (0.44 rounded/fractional delegates*27 congressional districts) = 45 at-large delegates.
  • That means Florida ends up not with a 2:1 congressional district to at-large delegates ratio, but a 6:5 ratio. 
The intent in all of this is not to add mathematical confusion to the delegate allocation equation. Rather, the idea is to redistribute the impact of the vote in the Florida primary. It places more emphasis on winning the statewide vote than on the 27 elections across the congressional districts. That is a lot closer to a truly winner-take-all allocation than if each of the congressional district delegates made up 81 of 99 total delegates. But it still is not a truly winner-take-all allocation. There can be variation in the winners across each of those congressional districts. And that, in turn, means that one candidate will not necessarily win the full delegation.

Will Florida Republicans' allocation look like the above in 2016 or will it be a truly winner-take-all contest as it was in 2008 and 2012? To be the latter, the Republican Party of Florida will have to make a change to its delegate selection/allocation rules. Media outlet after media outlet is reporting that Florida is attempting to solidify the March 15 date for the presidential primary as a means of assuring a winner-take-all plan. A true winner-take-all plan.

But FHQ is not entirely sure that is what Florida will end up with in 2016.

If one reads the fine print in the Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement for SB 7036 -- the bill to set March 15 as the Florida presidential primary date -- one will see that Rule 10 was revised in January 2014. What that revision entails is unknown.6 Does it mean a truly winner-take-all allocation for Florida Republicans?

FHQ would argue no.

The current Florida statute regarding the parameters of the presidential primary also state the following:
Any party rule directing the vote of delegates at a national nominating convention shall reasonably reflect the results of the presidential preference primary, if one is held.
Yes, that is somewhat ambiguous. But "reasonably reflect the results" is being interpreted in Florida as a mandate for some form of proportionality. But perhaps it would be better to say that the mandate is against a true winner-take-all allocation method. The net result is not going to be anything approaching a proportionate allocation based on the results of the primary. What is does is open the door to multiple candidates receiving delegates from the Florida primary. But winning any delegates would be dependent upon winning the vote in a congressional district.

At this point, FHQ is skeptical that Florida will award all 99 delegates to one candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race. That skepticism is driven by 1) the entire discussion above and 2) the uncertainty with regard to the changes the Republican Party of Florida made to Rule 10 in January 2014.

Even with those changes, though, it looks as if Florida Republicans are not all the way to the winner-take-all end of the proportional to winner-take-all delegate allocation spectrum. The plan seems to be pretty close, but not truly winner-take-all. That not only breaks from the allocation in 2008 and 2012, but subtly breaks from the conventional wisdom about Florida Republican delegate allocation.

1 Rule 10.M of the Republican Party of Florida, Party Rules of Procedure grants:
In the event that the Republican National Convention refuses to seat the full allotment of Florida delegates, all remaining delegates shall be Delegates at Large and shall be selected by the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from the original delegation.
And due to the fact that Rule 10.B calls for all at-large delegates to be allocated to the winner of the statewide vote, Florida's penalized total of delegates in 2008 and 2012 were allocated to the statewide winner of the primary.

2 Interestingly, the decision by the state legislature-created Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee to schedule a January primary brought on a 50% penalty from the RNC which in turn triggered a truly winner-take-all allocation method that also broke with Republican National Committee delegate selection rules. That, too, should have cost Florida Republicans 50% of their delegates. However, the 50% penalty could only be levied once under RNC rules. Sequentially, it was primary date that first prompted the RNC penalty.

3 See Rule 14 of the Rules of the Republican Party.

4 Those ten base, at-large delegates are based on the number of US senators a state has. Each state has two and each senate slot receives five (5) delegates. In this way, both across congressional district  and at-large delegates, the Republican National Committee apportionment is intended to mimic representation in the US Congress.

5 See Maryland and Ohio for examples of this in 2012.

6 One of the great tragedies of studying elections is the variation in standards across states, whether state government or state party information. Some states are more willing to share than others. Some states post everything online for voters and party members to access. Others do not. The Republican Party of Florida fits in the second category. The rules of the party are nowhere to be found. ...on their web page. County party websites work occasionally, but the state party is less than forthcoming with rules information.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Virginia Republicans Considering Switching from Presidential Primary to Convention?

Are Virginia Republicans contemplating replacing the presidential primary the state has funded since the 2000 presidential election cycle with a state convention that would select and allocate national convention delegates?

Paul Schwartzman at the Washington Post has the story.

FHQ is with Michael McDonald on this one. Schwartzman's piece is more about recent Virginia Republican Party infighting than about an actual change from a primary to a state convention.

The closest the story gets to the supposed switch is this:
The divide within Virginia’s GOP burst into the open in 2012, when then-Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a conservative favored by business, fought for control of the party’s governing board with then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, whose social views were a magnet for tea party loyalists. 
Cuccinelli’s allies won and changed the process for choosing nominees from a state-sponsored primary open to all registered voters including Democrats, to a convention, which invites only Republicans and typically attracts activists with more hard-line views.  
That debate probably will occur again as the state party considers whether to host a state-run Republican presidential primary or choose the candidate at a convention. A primary, strategists say, would favor an establishment candidate such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush. A convention would be advantageous to a candidate such as Paul, who has a strong following among conservative activists. [Emphasis FHQ's.]
Is this a possibility? Sure, anything is possible, but no one that supports such a move within the Virginia Republican Party was consulted for this story. That is a pretty big missing piece from the puzzle.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Minnesota Legislation Would Create Presidential Primary

There has been a great deal of talk lately about end of February deadlines. Funding the Department of Homeland Security was not the only that required action by the end of the month. Just two weeks ago, the state parties in Minnesota, as called for by state law, agreed to a March 1 date for presidential caucuses in 2016. The state parties did with two weeks to spare what they neglected to do four years: set a date for the caucuses. Without that agreement, the caucuses are automatically scheduled for the first Tuesday in February, a date non-compliant with the national party delegate selection rules.

Whereas Minnesota was non-compliant in 2012, the 2015 agreement on a March 1 date for the 2016 precinct caucuses keeps the North Star state from crossing the national parties. Everything is settled then, right?

Minnesota may still hold March 1 caucuses next year, but new legislation could potentially alter those plans. A trio of Republican lawmakers has introduced a bill in the Minnesota state Senate -- SF 1205 -- to create a presidential primary in the Gopher state and consolidate it with the primaries for state and local offices (scheduled now for August) on the last Tuesday in March.1

A few notes on this one:
  1. This is just the most recent attempt in Minnesota to switch from a caucuses/convention system to primaries. Similar attempts failed most recently in 2008 and 2009
  2. Creating a presidential primary for 2016 would be the first presidential primary in Minnesota since 1992. Democrats continued to use the caucuses format that year (though there was a beauty contest primary that Bill Clinton won), but Republicans used the primary for binding/allocating delegates. They were selected/chosen in the caucuses/convention process.  
  3. The Minnesota legislature is currently divided. Democrats control the state Senate and Republicans hold a majority in the state House. This primary bill has been proposed by minority party Republicans in the upper chamber. Unlike past years -- see 2008 and 2009 links above -- when there have been similar bills introduced, they came in pairs; one in each chamber. This effort to create a presidential primary was filed with no companion in the state House. Again, Republicans control the House. If this was a move with broad-based support among Republican legislators, one would expect to see a House bill too. For now, there is no such bill. 
  4. Democrats have been quiet on the proposal and the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party is not a fan
  5. The last Tuesday in March -- March 29, 2016 -- is wide open now. There are no other states with nomination elections on that date. But are legislators and others in the parties in Minnesota willing to trade in March 1 caucuses for a primary four weeks later? The state parties in announcing the March 1 caucuses agreement expressed a desire to provide caucusgoers in Minnesota with a voice in the nomination process. The deeper the race gets into primary season, much less just March -- the more likely it is that some candidate will have clinched the nomination or forced the other viable competitors out of the race. 
  6. It is not altogether clear that the parties would participate in the presidential primary election even if it is created. Nothing in the primary bill includes anything directly affecting the law regarding the caucuses process.
Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for sharing this news with FHQ.

1 The group that originally proposed the legislation has subsequently been joined by two other Republican senators.

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Florida Bill to Clarify Presidential Primary Date Filed

Legislation has been filed in the Florida state Senate to schedule the presidential preference primary in the Sunshine state for the date that it would be scheduled on under current law anyway.

Sure, SB 7036, is probably unnecessary, but it is good legislation. It takes a more-confusing-than-necessary statute and simplifies it. As FHQ has said recently, the combination of the national party rules and Florida state law means that the decision on where the primary is on the 2016 presidential primary calendar hinges on the delegate allocation plan on which the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) settles. Let's look at the language of that state law and I'll explain why. Current state law regarding scheduling of the Florida presidential primary reads as follows:
The presidential preference primary shall be held in each year the number of which is a multiple of 4 on the first Tuesday that the rules of the major political parties provide for state delegations to be allocated without penalty.
The first step in this is the national party penalties. Both the RNC and DNC prohibit non-carve-out states -- states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- from conducting delegate selection events before the first Tuesday in March. The RNC knocks medium and large states down to 12 delegates for violating that rule; the so-called super penalty. The DNC levies a 50% penalty for states breaking the rules on the timing of primaries and caucuses.

That combination would seem to indicate that "first Tuesday that the rules of the major political parties provide for state delegations to be allocated without penalty" is March 1 for the 2016 cycle. However, the Republican National Committee layers in an additional penalty for states that defy the proportionality requirement affecting states with contests prior to March 15. States that fail adopt delegate allocation plans compliant with the RNC definition of proportional are docked 50% of their national convention delegates.

The second RNC penalty in essence shifts the date-setting decision to the RPOF. Given that the party has allocated its full allotment of delegates to the winners of the last two primaries and maintained a winner-take-all by congressional district allocation plan in presidential election cycles before that, it would appear that the actual "first Tuesday that the rules of the major political parties provide for state delegations to be allocated without penalty" is March 15.

In fact, the chair of the party has signaled that the RPOF intends to keep the winner-take-all plan for 2016. That really pretty much settles the matter. If the party continues its recent practice of allocating its national convention delegates in a winner-take-all fashion, then the Florida presidential primary is scheduled for March 15.

But along comes SB 7036. The legislation would eliminate the "first Tuesday that the rules of the major political parties provide for state delegations to be allocated without penalty" language and replace it with the far simpler "third Tuesday in March".

This is good legislation for a couple of reasons. First, it simplifies an overly and unnecessarily complex passage in the presidential preference primary statute. The intent in the 2013 law change was to make the Florida primary a bit more mobile. It made the primary scheduling contingent upon the national parties' rules/penalties. That was meant to account for whatever changes the RNC and DNC made to their rules and penalties in 2014, and keep the Florida primary at as early a calendar spot as possible. The national party rules were finalized in the summer of 2014 and the RPOF seems to be leaning toward a return to winner-take-all rules. Again, that seems to settle the primary scheduling matter. Why, then, is a change necessary?

Well, that brings us to the second reason this is good legislating out of the Sunshine state. Even though the national and state party rules are set and the Florida primary is seemingly set for March 15, there is still the matter of the October 1 deadline the RNC has for finalizing state delegate allocation plans. The RPOF could still change the method of allocation.1 This bill, if passed and signed into law, removes all doubt. That new law would add the sort of certainty to the scheduling of the Florida primary that has been lacking since the 2004 cycle (or at least since the 2007 date change).

Think about that for a bit. The Florida presidential primary has been a scheduling roller coaster for two consecutive cycles now. That isn't news, but state legislative changes to the primary law fueled an air of uncertainty around Florida in both 2008 and 2012. When the legislature in 2007 moved the Florida primary to the last Tuesday in January for 2008, it set in motion a messy chain of events. First, the DNC stripped Florida of all of its delegates to the national convention. That was followed by a Republican-controlled state government in Tallahassee not budging from its position; unfazed neither by increased DNC penalties that matter little to Republicans nor the 50% penalty the RNC levied. But all the while there were questions about whether the Florida primary would move or if the state parties would be forced to hold caucuses instead. Those questions remained until the January 29 Florida primary and even lingered afterwards.

During the 2012 cycle, things were different. The Florida legislature again changed the primary law, but did not set a date. Instead, the legislature ceded the date-setting decision to a committee made up of members chosen by the governor and the leadership in the state legislature. No, the primary was no longer set for the last Tuesday in January, but the formation of the committee had the effect of dragging out the decision on when the Florida primary would be until the fall of 2011. The benefits were clear. The committee was better able to get a lay of the primary calendar land in September than the state legislature would have been in a legislative session that would have ended in May. Florida gained flexibility in that move, but the overall process and formation of the 2012 presidential primary calendar -- the front end of it especially -- again had uncertainty hovering over it. The committee ultimately chose the date that the statute had called for before the law creating the date-setting committee was created, the last Tuesday in January.

Removing the now-unnecessary language from the current law and replacing it was a specific date removes all uncertainty from the equation. There would be no "wait on Florida Republicans to officially set their rules to determine the primary date" questions dogging the process from now until summer.

So, yeah. This legislation is as unnecessary as the creation of the Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee turned out to be in 2011. But it has the opposite effect. It creates certainty rather than fueling a summer of uncertainty about what damage Florida might do to the intended primary calendar.2

NOTE: There is apparently similar legislation on the House side that will be considered next week.

1 The Republican Party of Florida does not seem inclined to make a change to its delegate allocation plan.

2 The current law would pose no Florida danger since the it prevents the Florida primary from being scheduled on a date that would incur a penalty.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Maryland Senate Committee Green Lights Minor Presidential Primary Move

The Maryland state Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs on Tuesday, February 24 passed the bill to shift the presidential primary in the Old Line state back a week on the 2016 presidential primary calendar.

SB 204 would move the Maryland primary from the first Tuesday in April to the second Tuesday in April. The bill was unanimously and favorably passed by the committee. The rationale behind the move, as confirmed in the committee hearing on the bill, was to prevent conflicts between early voting in the presidential primary and the Easter holiday in 2016.

One week moves of this sort are fairly rare. Idaho moved its primary up a week for 2012 before it eliminated the contest. A couple of states, Maryland and Georgia, took advantage of a change in Democratic National Committee rules during the 1992 cycle. The DNC moved the earliest date states were allowed to hold primaries and caucuses up a week from the second Tuesday in March in 1988 to the first Tuesday in March in 1992.

But again, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule to primary movement.

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