Tuesday, November 15, 2011

With September State Primary Set, Massachusetts Presidential Primary Looks Locked in on March 6

On Friday, November 11, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law H 3788, a supplemental appropriations bill for FY 2012. The bill itself is average fare, but the amendments added provide some hints as to the ultimate calendar location of the presidential primary. As FHQ noted recently, there has been some chatter on the local level pushing H 1972, legislation to consolidate the state primary and the presidential primary in June. Though that talk has increased -- at the local level -- and there is supposedly bipartisan support for consolidating the primaries in the General Court, the enactment of H 3788 casts doubt on the possibility of concurrent primaries in June.


The state primary, typically scheduled for the seventh Tuesday prior to the November general election, has been moved to early September. The September 18 date called for in Massachusetts election law was problematic for several reasons. First, it conflicted with the 45 day buffer between the general election ballot being set and mailed out to service personnel overseas and the general election itself. The 42 days between the primary and the general election was a clear violation of that MOVE act mandate. Additionally, the September 18 date also overlaps with Rosh Hashanah. As a result, talk of moving the primary focused on the week of September 3. September 4 is the Tuesday that week, but lawmakers were concerned with the financial impact paying elections workers overtime for setting up for election day on Labor Day on the 3rd. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin requested that the primary be moved to a non-Tuesday date; in this case Thursday, September 6. An amendment (see p. 708) laying out such a move was added to H 3788 and subsequently passed by both houses of the General Court.  [It is worth noting that this date, or any date during that week, will conflict with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.]

What does this mean for the Massachusetts presidential primary currently scheduled for March 6? Though it is not outside of the realm of possibility, with the state primary already having been shifted once, it is less likely that it will be moved again even to consolidate that set of contests with the presidential primary in June. That means that the Bay state presidential primary is very likely to stay right where it is: March 6.

Hat tip to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for the link on local level support for H 1972.

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