Thursday, May 26, 2011

Alabama Senate Passes Bill to Consolidate All Primaries in March

UPDATE: Perhaps I was too hard on Alabama legislators in the original update below. As it turns out, HB 425 moves the Alabama primaries to the second Tuesday in March which coincides with the Mississippi primary on March 13. This sets up an interesting series of contests from March 6-13. Texas would anchor the March 6 set of southern primaries with Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. That would be followed by Louisiana (assuming the move there is completed) on Saturday, March 10 and Alabama and Mississippi on March 13 the following Tuesday.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for pointing out our error.

Original Post:

The Alabama Senate voted this afternoon in favor of HB 425. The legislation would shift the presidential primary back from the first Tuesday in February to the first second Tuesday in March and the primaries for state and local offices up from the first Tuesday in June to the same March date. The move will save the state nearly $4 million if Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) signs the legislation. The bill passed 21-11 and now heads to the governor's desk for his consideration.

Alabama joins both Colorado and Missouri as states where legislatures have passed measures moving 2012 delegate selection events to March 6. All three are awaiting gubernatorial approval. As of today the legislation in Colorado and Missouri has been officially passed on to the governors in the respective states. Alabama and Missouri would move into compliance with national party rules while Colorado would be bumped up by two weeks to the earliest allowed date under national party delegate selection rules. Together, all three bills are expected to be signed.

UPDATE: Here are a couple of quotation from Alabama senators on the move (via Jason Cannon at The Demopolis Times):
“This legislation will help save Alabama taxpayer-dollars by having Alabama primary election on the same day as the Presidential Primary elections, and put the tax dollars of hard working Alabamians to better use,” said Senator Scott Beason (R – Jefferson). “Alabama will once again be at the forefront of national attention during the presidential election process as more national candidates will come to Alabama since we will be an early primary state,” Beason added.

Senate Majority leader Jabo Waggonner (R-Vestavia), said, “by moving the Alabama Primary election to the same day as the Presidential Primary election we will save the state of Alabama $3.9 million dollars.”
At some point state legislators are going to wise up to this "earlier equals more attention" mindset. Granted, Alabama legislators are merely attempting to keep with or slightly ahead of the curve. The chances that the state receives any more than the 13 candidate visits it received in 2008 are pretty low. March 6 will be slightly less crowded in 2012 than February 5 was in 2008, but it won't translate into a significant gain in terms of attention for the state. Holding a primary a week later, on March 13, with western neighbor, Mississippi, might be a more advantageous position. Admittedly, that might be a gamble if it appears as if the nomination will be decided on or before March 6. But we're too far out to know that with any level of certainty.

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