“It is time to move up the WV Presidential Primary to ensure that West Virginians have more say in picking the presidential nominees," said Mike Stuart, Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party. “We owe it to our coal miners and West Virginia families to ensure that the issues that are critical and unique to the future of West Virginia are reflected in the selection of a President of the United States.”
“Today, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada lead the process of picking the next President. Those states have little in common with the drivers of West Virginia’s economy,” said Stuart. “By the time West Virginia picks its nominee for president, the selection is generally irrelevant and West Virginia families and coal miners get left behind in the process.”
“[Acting Goveror Earl Ray] Tomblin and the Legislature can very easily change the WV Presidential Primary and make a bold statement to the nation that a candidate for President has to go through and to West Virginia before getting to the White House. West Virginia is too important to the nation for it to continue to be irrelevant in the selection of a President.”
Stuart invoking the ease with which the acting governor and legislature could act piqued my interest. It would have been helpful to have had the mechanism by which this change could be made included in the release. Beggars, however, cannot be choosers.
The bottom line is that there at least a couple of complicating factors. First off, the West Virginia legislature adjourned for the year on March 18. That fact does not preclude the legislature from acting on such a change in the state's elections law. The legislature does hold regular joint, interim meetings throughout the time the legislature is technically out of session, and the legislature can act on legislation in those settings. From the West Virginia legislature's web site:
If the governor and legislature are so inclined, then, they could introduce, consider, pass and sign into law a change in the primary date during one of the monthly interim sessions. But that leads to the second issue that may stand in the way of the move (presumably to March 6 or earlier): money. The Democratic-controlled legislature would obviously have to help out Republicans during a political season that will find Democrats on the sideline with Obama the likely Democratic nominee. That said, there are partisan concerns here, but legislators would have to decide on either creating an all-new and entirely separate presidential primary election or move up the federal, statewide and local primaries from May -- and the state has held a May or June primary throughout the post-reform era -- to an earlier date. The former is going to cost a significant amount during a time in which the economy is not in the best shape. This is something that has been confronted in other states with varying results, but is no less pertinent here. The alternative would be to move everything up which would have an effect on not only the traditional date West Virginia voters are used to, but could also impact the filing deadlines and cause problems with the federal mandates of the MOVE act.
In reality, Stuart is likely fine with the caucus/convention system from 2008 being used again in 2012. The true aim is very likely to get the legislature to consider a move in the future. ...for 2016 or beyond. FHQ may be off base here, but because of the partisan implications in West Virginia, I don't think I am.
Time will tell. And at least we now know the mechanism by which the elections law could be altered while the legislature is adjourned.