This past week in the Oregon state Senate, legislation was introduced to shift the dates on which primary elections in the state take place.
On Monday, January 12, SB 328 was introduced. The bill would take the consolidated primary elections set for the third Tuesday in May in even years and separate them. The presidential primary would stand pat, but the state and local primaries would be shifted from May to the third Tuesday in September.
Now, this means very little for the 2016 presidential primary calendar and Oregon's place in the process (toward the end). Well, it means very little directly. But if this bill gains any traction at all, there would almost have to be some consideration of repositioning the presidential primary. The rationale behind consolidated primaries is twofold. First, it is traditional in some states like Oregon (or Indiana or formerly North Carolina). It is just the way things are and have been done. That said, much of that tradition had to do with the expenses associated with elections in the first place. Holding a presidential primary concurrently with the primaries for state and local offices is a cost-saving mechanism. States that conduct a separate presidential primary have the added flexibility of being able to shift the date of it around from cycle to cycle. There is, however, a price to pay: the cost of the added election.
If Oregon legislators find it prudent to move or seriously consider moving the state and local primaries to a later date, it undermines the cost-savings rationale. If the other primaries move to September, then why not move the presidential primary up to a potentially more influential date? There would already have to be an expenditure associated with the election. Why stay at the end of the calendar?
This bill is one to watch because, again, if it gains any traction, it becomes a potential avenue toward shifting the presidential primary date.
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