Wednesday, March 11, 2015

An Update on the August Presidential Primary Bill in Montana

This kept getting pushed further and further back on FHQ's priority list:

An August presidential primary idea in Montana always seemed untenable anyway. It is difficult to hold a successful presidential primary -- even if consolidated with primaries for other offices -- after the national conventions have occurred.

Nonetheless, that was the proposal before the Montana House State Administration Committee toward the end of February: a package to facilitate an even year meeting of the legislature combined with a June to August move for the primary elections in the Treasure state.

A couple of significant things happened in the time since FHQ last looked at this bill. First, during the committee hearing on the legislation -- HB 571 -- there was already some doubt cast on the August primary part of the bill. At that time, the committee tabled the legislation for the time being. A few days later on Friday, February 27, the deadline for bills to be passed in one chamber and transmitted to the other came and went with no action on HB 571.

Given that combination of factors -- reservations to the August primary and the bill not being transmitted to the state Senate -- it would appear that the idea of moving the Montana presidential primary has been stopped dead in its tracks. One thing to watch in Montana is what the state parties do. Democrats in the state have tended to allocate their national convention delegates through the June primary, but Montana Republicans have often used the primary in only an advisory role in their caucuses/convention process. Treasure state Republicans held binding caucuses in February 2008. That was a break from the practice of an early June advisory primary/late June binding state convention the party has used throughout much of the post-reform era.

Caucuses may or may not be on the table for the state parties in Montana. That is something worth watching in the coming weeks.

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