Monday, June 27, 2011

Wisconsin Assembly Has Until Thursday to Pass Presidential Primary Bill, Avoid Delay

The Wisconsin legislature is staring down an extended recess break after Thursday closes the month of June. With both the Assembly (AB 162) and Senate-passed (SB 115) versions of the legislation to move the Badger state presidential primary from the third Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in April stuck in the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform, time is running out to some degree.1 Wisconsin has a year-round legislative session, but for all intents and purposes that means that the legislature meets periodically throughout the entire calendar year. For most states with year-round sessions there is a concentrated period of activity during the first half of the year with more sporadic meetings occurring across the back half of the year.

Now, this in no way means that the legislation to move the primary is dead. What it means is that the legislature, if it doesn't act this week (prior to July 1), will have a small window of time in which to push the bill/bills the rest of the way through the legislative process. Given that the Republican Party requires notification of states' delegate selection plans by October 1 (see pg. 20), this most likely means that the Wisconsin legislature would have to act in the ten day window from September 13-22.

The practical implication of this is that the primary situation in Wisconsin will remain uncertain into the fall. This comes at a time (the first half of this year) when most states will have settled the timing of their primaries for 2012. Like the field of presidential candidates, the more time that passes, the more certainty we have about who will be in or out. The same is true for the 2012 presidential primary calendar: things are more certain now than they were in January, but there are still a decreasing number of states providing some uncertainty.

FHQ will have a run down of the status of the calendar -- a midpoint status report -- out sometime this week.

UPDATE: A tweet from Wisconsin DNC member Jason Rae made me realize something I left unsaid, or at least unclear, above. I fully expect this legislation to pass. The only question at this point is when. The legislature doesn't have anything on the session calendar after Thursday until September, so it will be either this week or then unless they convene during the intervening period. There is an August 4 deadline to submit bills to the governor in there as well.

1 There is currently no meeting of the Committee on Election and Campaign Reform scheduled for any time this week.

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