Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Michigan Republicans Take First Step Toward 2016 Presidential Primary Date Change

WKZO in Michigan reports:
March 15th, 2016 appears to be the likely date of the Michigan Republican presidential primary in the next election. The Michigan Republican Party's Policy Committee approved the date... 
There is a bit more to the story, but it was little more than a blurb that has not been reported elsewhere. FHQ spoke with Michigan Republican Party Member Relations Director, Brian Koss, who confirmed the report and added some background as well.

Here's what we know:
1. The Policy Committee of the Michigan Republican Party approved the date change from the last Tuesday in February to March 15. That would have the effect of shifting the Michigan presidential primary back three weeks in 2016.

2. The committee also recommended a change to the method of delegate allocation. The change is not all that significant, but Mr. Koss indicated that it was the result of a compromise among the committee membership. Some wanted a winner-take-all allocation while others preferred a more proportional method of awarding delegates to presidential candidates. In the end, the Michigan Republican delegate allocation would look similar to the party's 2012 delegate selection plan (pre-penalty). Basically the recommendation calls for the allocation to be winner-take-all by congressional district with the statewide, at-large delegates being allocated proportionally. That is exactly the same as it was in 2012. The added wrinkle is that if one candidate receives over 50% of the vote statewide, then that candidate wins all of the at-large delegates.

3. This is the first step in the process. The Policy Committee has only recommended changes that the State Central Committee will now consider. Mr. Koss signaled that there was support for both changes -- date and delegate allocation -- on the SCC.

4. However, only part of the changes would be binding. The state party controls the ability to alter the method of delegate allocation, can only signal its preference for a primary date (unless it opts to fund the primary election itself and hold it on March 15, 2016). If SCC votes positively on the recommended allocation change, then that would be changed in the state party rules.

The primary, however, is state funded and thus the legislature must initiate legislation to move the date of the contest back on the calendar. FHQ will have more on the developments on that front soon, but for the time being, without action from the state government, the actions by the SCC will be little more than a non-binding preference/recommendation. Much of that recommendation -- where the Michigan presidential primary ends up on the calendar -- depends on how the midterm elections affect the partisan control of both the state legislature and the governor's mansion.

Again, this is the first step and gives us some idea about the thinking in Michigan on the Republican side.

The WKZO report indicates that March 15 is the "is the earliest a primary can be held without losing delegates to the Republican National Convention." Well, sort of. In reality, that is the earliest a primary can be held without any penalty. But a March 15 Michigan primary would suffer no losses to its delegation to the Republican National Convention. The primary would have to be before March 1 for the party to lose delegates. The March 15 threshold is one that refers to the method of allocation. The RNC rules require that contests prior to March 15 maintain some element of proportional allocation in their plan. Both the Michigan allocation plan of 2012 and the recommended changes for 2016 would be compliant there. March 15 then is not about avoiding a delegate penalty.

In fact, on March 15, Michigan would not even need to avoid a true winner-take-all allocation. That would be compliant then. But again, the allocation recommendation from the MIGOP Policy Committee was function of compromise, not avoiding penalty.

The question that emerges is why March 15? That was the less "controversial" of the two recommendations. The consensus on March 15 in Michigan may lend some credence to the talk of a Midwestern regional primary on that date, after a March 1 Southern regional primary. Ohio is a week earlier on March 8 and Wisconsin could potentially move up and maintain a winner-take-all allocation on March 15.

All of that, though, is a matter for 2015.

Recent Posts:
New York Has Reverted to a February Presidential Primary for 2016

State GOP parties jockey for primary calendar advantage

Revisiting the 2016 Republican Delegate Selection Rules

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