Dell Parker, the Scotland County Board of Elections director, has indicated that the budget for elections in 2015-2016 only accounts for two elections, not three or four (if there is a separate presidential primary and runoff in addition to the May primary and general elections). That is something that will have to be changed/augmented at the county level.1
Further west in Burke County, the $67000 price tag for conducting the separate presidential primary and the logistics of preparing for an early primary on the heels of municipal elections in November 2015 has given Board of Elections members there pause.
None of this is particularly revelatory. In fact, it is a typical reaction from the county units of Boards of Elections on the front lines actually conducting elections. It also does not mean that the North Carolina primary has to move or that this will exert any pressure on state legislators who would make that decision.
However, this is all part of what has separated states from each other in the post-reform era. In terms the Economist used four years ago, there are thrusters and laggards. The latter group tends to include states like North Carolina that have traditionally held consolidated primaries that are usually at the end of the presidential primary calendar. There may be a willingness in states like that to move to earlier dates, but there are transaction costs associated with such a move. Those costs are clearer in states that opt to separate the presidential primary, freeing that election up to be more mobile in the future. That sort of future freedom requires states and lower political units to fund that separate election; a high hurdle given the example of how some counties in North Carolina are reacting as 2016 approaches.
Those costs, however, have separated the states like North Carolina from the traditionally more mobile states -- early adopters of separate primaries -- like Florida, Georgia and a number of northeastern states.2 This is a substantively and statistically significant variable in much of the research FHQ has done on the matter.
Again, counties crying foul about this sort of thing is not new. Furthermore, it is unlikely to exert any real pressure in Raleigh to change the date of the North Carolina primary. And even if it does, those concerns are likely to take a backseat to pressure from the Republican National Committee to change the date of the primary.
1 Scotland County Board of Elections chair, Hal Culberson, states in that article:
"It will be the first time ever we’ve had a presidential-only primary,’’ said Hal Culberson, the elections board chairman, at the board’s Monday meeting. “We’ve never had an election primary just for the U.S. presidential election."False.
North Carolina held separate presidential primaries in both 1976 -- when they held a March presidential primary and August primary for other offices -- and 1988 -- when there was a March presidential primary and a May primary for state and local offices.
2 Those states tended to have fall primaries for state and local offices that were valued, but not suited for a presidential nomination process that wrapped up with a summer convention. In other words, those states wanted to keep their fall primaries, and had to create an alternative election to play the presidential nomination game.
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