Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Two Bills to Move Maryland Presidential Primary Back Introduced

There are now two bills that have been introduced in the Maryland Senate to shift the dates on which the Old Line state's primaries for state and local offices will be held. The express purpose of those bills is to move state and local primaries in midterm election years from the second Tuesday after the first Monday in September because it conflicts with the federal mandate in the MOVE act. That mandate requires at least a 45 day cushion between the primary election and the general election to allow for the printing of ballots and timely distribution of them to military and overseas voters. In addition, both bills also move the state's presidential primary from the second Tuesday in February in order to comply with national party rules regarding the timing of delegate selection events.

SB 501 was introduced on February 4 by Senator Roy Dyson (D-29, Calvert, Charles & St. Mary's Counties) and would move the presidential primary from February to the first Tuesday in March -- which would coincide with the plans in fellow Potomac Primary state Virginia. The midterm year primaries would be shifted from September up to the second Tuesday in July.

And just today (February 9) at the request of President of the Senate Thomas Miller (D-27, Calvert & Prince George's Counties), SB820 was introduced (cosponsored by the Majority Leader Robert Garagiola (D-15, Montgomery County) and Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs (R-34, Cecil & Harford Counties)). The bill would move the presidential primary to the first Tuesday in April and the midterm election year primaries for statewide and local offices to the last Tuesday in June. With a House companion (HB 671) on the way and the full bipartisan support of the Senate leadership, this bill would presumably have the better chance of winning passage and making to Governor O'Malley's desk. It also lends some credence to the presidential primary date discussed in the Washington Examiner's piece over the weekend about the potential breaking up of the Potomac Primary.

Still, that first Tuesday in April date is an interesting one. FHQ would speculate that there are a couple of possible reasons for that date. First, one could guess that Maryland legislators are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle for the second consecutive cycle by hoping that a supposed March 6 Super Tuesday proves inconclusive in wrapping up the Republican nomination race. That would leave the Maryland primary in that sparsely populated area of the calendar between early March and the Pennsylvania primary in late April. In the event that happened, Maryland -- along with Mississippi and Illinois -- could prove quite consequential to the Republican race. The other idea that crosses my mind is that this could also be an effort at another regional primary. There has been some chatter about officials in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia discussing the possibility. And the first Tuesday in April is a date that Pennsylvania has used in the past -- one of the two times the commonwealth moved its presidential primary. At this point, I'm more inclined to put stock in the first option rather than the second. But we'll see. None of those other states have made any moves at the state legislative level on this front as of yet.

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