Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Florida House

The Florida state House passed HB 7035 on Wednesday afternoon, March 11 by a unanimous vote of 114-0.

The legislation would clarify but not change the date of the Florida presidential primary to the third Tuesday in March. Under current law, the Florida presidential primary would fall on the first date on the calendar on which the state would not face penalties from the national parties. That does not schedule the primary for the first Tuesday in March as is being reported. The current law actually ends up placing the decision-making power in the hands of the Republican Party of Florida. The state party's desire to retain some type of winner-take-all primary combined with the Republican National Committee rule requiring a proportional allocation in all contests before March 15 means the Florida presidential primary would be scheduled March 15.

Again, the legislation clarifies and simplifies the presidential preference primary law. It does not change the date. Sadly, it does not appear as if the Republican Party of Florida knows this. At least that is the way it reads in this Michael Auslen story from the Miami Herald:
If the primary date isn’t moved, Florida’s 2016 primary under current law would fall on March 1, early enough that the party said it would allocate Florida’s delegates proportionally. By moving the election to the third Tuesday, which is March 15, 2016, that means whoever wins the primary will take all the state’s delegates.

This has it backwards. The Republican Party of Florida needs no protection of its [desire to hold a] winner-take-all primary. It holds all the cards. Keep the winner-take-all rules in the state party bylaws and that sets the primary for March 15 to avoid a 50% penalty on any winner-take-all contest before March 15. The current law is set up in a way that prevents Florida from being penalized. It cannot be.

None of this makes the legislation currently making its way through both chambers of the Florida legislature meaningless. It just means that neither bill is changing the date of the presidential primary. They would clarify and simplify the primary law.

That clarity is a good thing from a state that has provided the opposite of that over the course of the last two presidential election cycles.

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