Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bill to Move Florida Presidential Primary to March Filed in Florida Senate

Florida Senator Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) filed S 860 on February 8. The bill would shift the date on which the Sunshine state's presidential primary is held from the last Tuesday in January to the first Tuesday in March. FHQ has for some time now discussed the importance of Florida in terms of what the 2012 presidential primary calendar will ultimately look like. Out of compliance in 2008 and still, by law, non-compliant for 2012, a Florida move to a later date would be the first necessary domino to fall in determining when Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will hold their 2012 delegate selection events. Florida is not the only non-compliant state, but it is the earliest, and its presence at the end of January is keeping the beginning of the process there -- at least hypothetically -- and not in February where both of the national parties prefer the presidential primary process to begin.

The other complicating factor here is partisanship. Joyner, the minority leader in the Senate, is a Democrat and while Florida being non-compliant in the Democratic nomination process may not be all that consequential* with the nomination likely being uncontested, Republicans control the state legislature and the executive branch. The GOP in the state holds the power and with a contested nomination race in 2012 may prefer influence, albeit with penalties affecting the size of their convention delegation, over following the rules.

That said, a bill has been filed to move the state's primary to a later, compliant date, but the ball is in the Republican majority's court. The Florida legislature convenes on March 8.

*Democrats in states with unified Republican control have to, according to the DNC's delegate selection rules, make a "good faith" effort to make the necessary timing change through legislative channels to have any hope of a waiver from the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee in the event a non-compliant primary is held (Rule 20.C.7).

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