AB 80 (Fong): Presidential Primary
This bill saves the state and local governments millions of dollars by eliminating California's stand-alone presidential primary election in February and instead consolidating it with primary elections for other offices in June.
In 2007, the Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, Senate Bill 113 (Calderon), Chapter 2, Statutes of 2007, to move the State's presidential primary from June to the first Tuesday in February. At the time, the intent behind moving up the primary was to encourage presidential candidates to campaign in California, and to debate and discuss issues and policies important to the people of this state, while also to encourage voter registration, voter interest, and voter participation in the 2008 election.
Consequently, in 2008 California held its presidential primary on February 5th. However, by the time California voters cast their ballots 33 other states had also moved up their presidential primaries. Fifteen states held their presidential primary on the same day as California, limiting California's influence on the selection of presidential candidates.
In August of 2010, the Republican and Democratic National Committees adopted policies that prohibit any type of selection process for presidential candidates, via election or caucus from occurring prior to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, with the exception of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada who are permitted to begin their processes at any time on or after February 1.
These policies are intended to discourage the trend of early primary elections because the earlier the primary, the longer the period of time between the primary and general elections, which could result in lower voter turnouts and increased costs of campaigning by lengthening the campaign season.
While a state is free to schedule its presidential primary election or caucus whenever it wants, it may face sanctions at the national convention if its election or caucus is held at a time or in a manner that violates the national party rules.
In addition, current law requires the 2012 presidential primary to occur on the first Tuesday in February and prohibits it from being consolidated with the statewide direct primary to be held in that year - meaning, California would be required to hold 3 separate statewide elections in 2012, imposing a huge cost on the state and local governments at a time when our state's fiscal situation is in crisis.
AB 80 will eliminate the state's stand-alone presidential primary election and consolidate it with other primary elections, saving the state and local governments tens of millions of dollars on avoided election costs, as well as conform California law to national party rules.
AB 80 does the following:
Requires the presidential primary to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June of each year evenly divisible by the number four.
Requires the presidential primary election to be consolidated with the statewide direct primary that is held in that year.