Thursday, February 12, 2015

Michigan Presidential Primary Bill Passes State Senate, but...

The Michigan state Senate on Thursday, February 12 unanimously passed (38-0) SB 44.1 The legislation would shift the presidential primary in the Great Lakes state back three weeks on the 2016 presidential primary calendar and importantly back into compliance with the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules.

Similar legislation, however, followed a similar path late in 2014. During the lame duck legislative session last December, a bill passed the state Senate that would have made the same change: move the presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in February to the third Tuesday in March. That legislation met roadblocks in the state House before quickly thereafter dying in committee when the session adjourned.

It does not appear as if the 2015 effort is out of the House-side woods yet. Elections Committee Chairwoman Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-86th) has signaled some resistance on logistics grounds to the March 15 primary date called for in the Senate-passed bill. The chairwoman did concede that the primary must be "sometime in March" according to David Eggert at the Washington Times2, but that is hardly a ringing endorsement of the mid-March date.

One noteworthy consideration moving forward is that the delegate allocation plan the Michigan Republican Party adopted last fall is not winner-take-all and thus does not have to fall on or after March 15 to avoid penalties from the RNC. The Michigan plan is conditionally winner-take-all which passes muster under RNC proportionality requirement dating back to 2011. That would work on March 1 or March 8 as well. There has been some talk about a Midwestern/Big 10 primary. That could work on March 15 or March 8. The Ohio primary is already scheduled for March 8 while the Illinois and Missouri primaries are slated for March 15. The new Michigan Republican plan works in any March scenario. That may provide legislators with some leeway if not bargaining power in finalizing the primary date (if a compromise can be reached).

Tip of the cap to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for the heads up about the passage of the Michigan bill.

UPDATE (2/18/15): House passes amended version
UPDATE (2/19/15): Senate concurs with House changes
UPDATE (2/20/15): Governor signs bill (changes primary date to March 8, 2016)

1 Despite Democratic opposition to the bill in committee and a failed attempt at amending the legislation on the Senate floor, Michigan Democrats in the state Senate lined up behind the effort to move the primary to March and back into compliance with Democratic National Committee rules.

2 Nitpicky point: Eggert mentions that the current February date of the Michigan primary dates to a 2012 law. This is false. The presidential primary law was amended in 2011 for the 2012 cycle, but the fourth Tuesday in February date of the primary was left unchanged in that bill. That bill merely solidified that date for 2012, since the state Republicans considered changing it to a March date. The February presidential primary pre-dates the 2008 cycle because the law was temporarily changed in 2007 -- moving the primary into January. That change had a sunset provision that saw the primary date revert to February thereafter. There were changes made to that law in both 1999 and 2003, but the Michigan presidential primary was on the fourth Tuesday in February in 2000. That seems to trace the origin of the February date back to the 1999 change. The date was not established or changed in 2012 though.

Recent Posts:
Oklahoma Presidential Primary Bill Gets the Green Light from Senate Committee

Texas Presidential Primary Bill Challenging Carve-Out States Does Not Have State Party Support

Mississippi Presidential Primary Bills Pass

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