Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Florida Senate Committee Reports March 15 Presidential Primary Bill Favorably

The Florida state Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections conducted a hearing on SB 7036 this afternoon (Tuesday, March 3). The legislation would create a "static and permanent" date for the Florida presidential primary on March 15.

There was some discussion about the bill, but it was not extensive. Mainly, Florida Democrats on the committee questioned how the bill would affect the Democratic primary process in the Sunshine state. The provisions in the bill do not affect the Democratic Party any differently. The primary date would be on March 15.

The one thing that did come up that FHQ would push back on is that this bill is intended to allow Florida Republicans to maintain winner-take-all rules. It was argued that current law calls for a March 1 primary which would prevent the Republican Party of Florida from allocating its delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.

This is not true. And FHQ is probably to blame. If not for this post -- based on a misreading of the RNC rules described in the Editor's Note here -- legislators in the Sunshine state would likely not have come to this conclusion. I know. That sounds big-headed of me, but they got the March 1 date interpretation from the FHQ 2016 presidential primary calendar (see footnote 5 here).

And it is wrong. I was wrong.

There is nothing that prevents Florida Republicans from having a winner-take-all primary under the current law. The law, as it stands now, moves the Florida presidential primary to the earliest date that would avoid penalties. If Florida Republicans did not have some version of winner-take-all rules in their delegate allocation plan, then that earliest, non-penalized point on the calendar would be March 1. But since it appears as if winner-take-all is going nowhere, that earliest, non-penalized date is March 15.

There is no need for Florida legislators to change the law. It would call for a March 15 primary date regardless. The one benefit to the change is clarity. A "static and permanent" date does that.

The bill -- identical to the House committee-passed bill -- now moves on to consideration on the Senate floor.

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