Thursday, October 6, 2011

North Carolina Bill to Move Presidential Primary is Only Mostly Dead1

There are very few possibilities for calendar movement outside of Iowa and New Hampshire these days. The front of the calendar -- especially post-Florida -- is where all the attention is anyway. Shuffling of states in the first Tuesday in March to second Tuesday in June window is of little consequence now. That is largely attributable to the fact that there just is not any movement on that front at the moment and there are no signs that that will change. That said, there are a few options -- not likely ones, but options nonetheless -- left.

North Carolina is one of those states. Legislation (S 440) to create a separate presidential primary and schedule it for the first Tuesday in March was introduced back in March of this year. It has had a committee hearing but has laid fallow ever since. But technically, the legislation is active and could be acted upon when the legislature reconvenes in November. The likelihood of that particular course of action seems slim at best, though (via the High Point Enterprise):
"At this point, I've not received from our members any indication that there's a groundswell to make any changes [to the primary date]," said [Senate President Pro Tem Phil] Berger, whose district includes parts of Guilford County.
A spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said to the spokesman's knowledge, there's been no talk about moving up the Republican presidential primary when the General Assembly reconvenes.
On the agenda or not, is it even possible for North Carolina legislators to move the Tarheel state presidential primary to February or January and in any way fundamentally alter the likely calendar (where it stands now minus Iowa and New Hampshire dates)? Well, for starters, and to put this into terms FHQ uses repeatedly around here and in my research, the willingness seemingly is not there and the ability may not be either. The North Carolina General Assembly will be back in session for one day on November 7. The State Elections Board has said that they need 90 days to prepare for an election. The North Carolina primary -- scheduled for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May -- has a filing deadline of the first Tuesday in February.

If the bill passed both chambers of the legislature and was signed on November 7, the earliest North Carolina could hold a primary, given the 90 days required by state elections officials, would be the first Tuesday in February. The filing deadline would also have to be changed to a window of time about a third as small as it currently is. North Carolina, then, could hold a non-compliant primary election, but could not logistically pull off a contest that would threaten the positions of any of the early contests. But perhaps, if the willingness existed in the legislature, North Carolina could insert a primary in one of the two gaps in the calendar: February 7-28 and April 3-24.

What is much more likely, though, is that the legislature does what its leaders say it will: nothing. If the race is still competitive in May, North Carolina will be the biggest delegate prize on May 8 -- and it is a proportional contest.

1 Nope. I can't help the Princess Bride reference in this instance.

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