Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Texas Bill Would Move Presidential Primary to February

The slow crawl toward 2016 continued last week in the Texas legislature.

Though the bulk of legislation regarding any future dates of presidential primaries is most successful in the year immediately prior to the presidential election year, that does not preclude state legislators from introducing legislation at other points in a given presidential election cycle. No, it does not prevent the introduction of such legislation, but the timing does have an impact on whether said legislation is successfully signed into law. During the 2012 cycle, only Arkansas (2009) and Illinois (2010) shifted via legislation the dates on which their respective presidential primaries would be held. The rest of the primary movement witnessed happened during the 2011 terms of most state legislatures.

It is with that caveat that FHQ raises the legislation filed in the Texas Senate last week. SB 452, sponsored by Senator Dan Patrick (R-7th, Houston), would shift the presidential primary as well as the concurrent primaries for other offices from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. Now, under the current rules or likely rules of both parties, such a move a would make the Texas presidential primary non-compliant. [Editor's Note: FHQ does not foresee changes to either party's rules that would change that.] And though the conditions have changed from 2012, it is unlikely that this legislation will make it through both chambers of the legislature and onto Governor Rick Perry's desk during this session.1

The best evidence of this is the fact that a nearly identical bill prefiled in 2010 ahead of the 2011 Texas legislative session never made it out of the House committee to which it was referred. The only difference between the bill Representative Roberto Alonzo (D-104th, Dallas) filed in 2010 (HB 318) and the current legislation is that section 1.b now refers to the later runoff election date that came out of the redistricting battle. That date is shifted up a month as well. The rest of the bill is exactly -- verbatim -- the same. And incidentally, a House bill exactly like the 2011 bill was proposed and went nowhere in 2007. Perhaps the fact that a Republican has introduced the legislation in the state Senate will make some difference in the ultimate success of the bill. If, however, the previous House bills are any indication, then that is not likely.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing the news of the introduction of this bill to FHQ.

1 For one, complications with the redistricting process kept the date of the 2012 Texas primary in a constant state of flux from December 2011-March 2012. as the review of the new lines were challenged in the courts. Secondly, the Republican Party of Texas had no desire to break the RNC rules concerning timing or the new proportionality requirement. Part of this was driven by the fact that the RNC legal counsel at the time was the Texas national committeeman. That is no longer the case.

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