On Wednesday, the Michigan Democratic Party released for public comment a draft of its 2012 delegate selection plan. The plan calls for, among other things, May 5 caucuses as the first determining step in the Democratic delegate selection process in the Wolverine state. That is a break from the state party's use of the state-funded primary in 2008; an option that has only been sporadically used in the past.
What the May caucus option does is help Michigan Democrats avert a repeat of the 2008 primary crisis. The Michigan state legislature has done little to bring the primary date -- February 28, 2012 -- into compliance with national party rules.1 The only bills that explicitly mention the presidential primary are the two appropriations bills before the House and the Senate. Each chamber's version sets aside $10 million for the election. The Michigan situation is complicated by the fact that the presidential primary is held concurrently with school board elections that the legislature is hesitant to split the two sets of elections for budgetary reasons. Foreseeing that issue, Democrats in the state took a proactive approach and chose to utilize later caucuses as a means of allocating delegates in an uncontested nomination race.
The focus in Michigan now shifts to the Republican-controlled legislature (and Republican governor) to see what will happen with the presidential primary there.
Hat tip to the AP for the news. It should be noted that state law has to be changed to alter the date, but that has no bearing on the Michigan Democratic Party's decision to hold a caucus instead of a primary. There is nothing, given a quick reading of the pertinent sections of the Michigan election laws, that binds the parties to the use of the primary; especially if the party is picking up the tab on the caucuses. A Democratic primary in Michigan would simply be a beauty contest with no bearing on the allocation of delegates the the convention in Charlotte.
1 On Tuesday, April 12, Rep. Paul Scott (R-51st, Grand Blanc) introduced legislation in the Michigan House to shift the Wolverine state's presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in February to the last Tuesday in January -- the same date on which the Florida primary is currently scheduled.