Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Bill Would Seek to Clarify the Date of the 2016 Florida Presidential Primary

Is the Florida presidential primary on the move again?

Word out of the Sunshine state this morning is that something is up with the Florida primary. The legislature will not convene in Tallahassee to officially begin its new session until the beginning of March, but legislation is being pre-filed now. Among that group of pre-filed bills is a bill by Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter (R-23rd, Collier, Lee) that would pull the Florida presidential primary out of the scheduling limbo in which the election is currently stuck.

Senator Richter's bill -- or at least the description of it -- would specify a third Tuesday in March date for the Florida primary. That seems designed to push the primary beyond the point in the RNC calendar that requires states have a proportional element to their delegate allocation plans. Any contest on or after March 15 falls out of the proportionality window and can thus allocate all of its apportioned national convention delegates to the winner of the primary (if the state so chooses).

But if the Republican Party of Florida wants to maintain a winner-take-all allocation plan for 2016, that would automatically slide the Florida primary back to March 15 under the current state law anyway. Again, the law as changed in 2013 requires that the Florida presidential primary be held on the first date that is not penalized by the rules of either national party.

A March 1 primary would avoid the timing penalties in both parties (super penalty for the RNC, 50% penalty for the DNC). The Republican Party of Florida, though, holds the key to all of this. The RNC also has a 50% penalty associated with a violation of their proportionality requirement for states with contests before March 15. If Florida Republicans opt for a plan with an element of proportionality, then the primary would be scheduled for March 1. However, if the state party opts to stay the course and keep the winner-take-all delegate allocation plan it used in  2008 and 2012, then the Florida primary would be on March 15.

The date this new bill in Florida is apparently seeking to specify to protect the Florida Republican Party's ability to hold a winner-take-all contest is superfluous. It specifies a date for the primary that the primary would already be scheduled on because of the winner-take-all allocation plan.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The final version of the RNC delegate selection rules had in it a 50% penalty for violations of the proportionality requirement. That was something that was missing from a previous iteration of the rules FHQ had access to. That subsequently affected discussions here and here about the applicability of the proportionality penalty and its impacts. Those posts have been edited to reflect this change.

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