[This is part four in a continuing series this week examining current state legislative action affecting the positioning of presidential primaries in 2012.]
There are two points about Illinois I want to deal with in this space. First of all, some of the points in our earlier discussion of the state legislative action in Land of Lincoln were incorrect. A closer reading of SB 46, the bill at the heart of that earlier post, reveals that the presidential primary is not a part of the equation. As has been discussed here more times than regular readers probably care to remember, states are constrained in their ability to frontload based on whether the state holds its presidential primary concurrently with its primaries for state and local office. States that have already severed those ties find it much easier to move that those states where a decision has to be made between moving everything or splitting those primaries and funding an all new presidential primary election.
Illinois is one of the states that has traditionally held its primaries concurrently in the post-reform era. When the state legislature opted to move the state's primary from March into February in anticipation of the 2008 election, all the primaries moved. Now, however, the state legislature is considering a couple of proposals (one more than was initially known to FHQ) to split those primaries, leaving the presidential contest in February, but moving the primaries for state and local offices back. The state senate legislation mentioned already proposes moving those contests all the way back to June. This move has been spearheaded by a long list of Republicans senators. On the House side, though, the proposal (HB 2308) is led by a handful of Democrats and the move is far less drastic; moving those state and local primaries back to the state's traditional third Tuesday in March primary date.
Yeah, but those aren't presidential primaries, are they?
No, they aren't. However, should this legislation make it through the legislature and be signed into law it will make future attempts by Illinois to frontload that much easier. In my initial examination of this "split primaries" issue, those split primaries states from 1976-1996 were over five times as likely to frontload as those states where all primaries were held concurrently. That effect has lessened over the last few cycles however. Including data through 2008, split primaries states are still well over twice as likely to move as their concurrent primaries counterparts.
Of course, both of the pieces of legislation cited above are also currently stuck in committee. While neither is in jeopardy at the moment, it isn't clear how likely either is to pass the through the whole legislature. Pat Quinn, Rod Blagojevich's replacement, signaled early on once he assumed office that he was interested in moving state and local primaries back to a later date. So there is some support for the idea there.
New Hampshire in 2012
Or Not: Arkansas is Staying in May for 2012
New Jersey in 2012 Redux