Friday, March 22, 2019

Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

On Wednesday, March 20, the Maine Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs convened and considered legislation to reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state and conduct it under ranked choice voting rules. Scott Thistle at the Portland Press Herald reported that no one providing testimony spoke against the measure.

Republicans on the panel, however, balked according to Thistle:
But Republicans, who have largely opposed ranked choice, pushed back against its supporters, saying they didn’t believe the original system was broken but working as it should. 
“To me the old analogy is, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,'” said Rep. Sheldon Hanington, R-Lincoln, a committee member who questioned witnesses. Hanington said he had voted since 1980, was satisfied with the outcomes of some elections and dissatisfied with others, but wasn’t convinced the system was broken.
And representatives from the office of the secretary of state while remaining neutral on the legislation pointed out some technical problems that it would raise if it became law:
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, the state’s second-highest-ranking election official, said the Secretary of State’s Office was neither for nor against the bill, but did “wholeheartedly support a return to the presidential primary over a caucus …” 
Flynn said there were technical issues with the bill, including the timing of holding a primary election in early March and then tabulating it without running up against other deadlines in state law for candidates to turn in their nominating petitions. She said for the law to go into effect for the 2020 presidential primary, candidates would need to have their petitions filed with the state by July of this year, which would be before the bill, if passed, would go into effect.
Funding would seemingly still be a concern with this bill as it is with the other primary bill since it still calls for a separate presidential primary contest.

Neither bill has seen a working session in committee to add any amendments.


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LD 1083 has a competing bill, LD 245, that has previously been heard by the committee, and both are similar with respect to the timing of the would-be newly constituted presidential primary. Both would leave the scheduling decision up to the secretary of state, but confine the date to some time in March.

That uncertainty over the scheduling has drawn some push back from the secretary of state's office in the previous hearing hearing over LD 245. During that hearing, deputy secretary of state Julie Flynn revealed that the office had a bill in the works that would reestablish the presidential primary but on a set date, the second Tuesday in March. That bill has yet to make its way to the introduction stage much less a committee hearing. It is unclear whether it will and become another alternative that the Maine legislature will consider alongside the two other options.

It is also worth pointing out that the same filing issues would be present in any competing bill that sets a definitive date in March as well.



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Related:
1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

2/9/19: Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting


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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Nevada Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan

Although some of the details came to light a couple of weeks ago, Nevada Democrats on Wednesday, March 20 released their draft delegate selection plan for the 2020 cycle, providing a fuller accounting of how the party will select and allocate delegates. The devil is always in the details:

The process
Before digging in, let's go over some basics. First of all, the is a draft. All Democratic state parties are tasked with devising a draft delegate selection plan that it then releases publicly and opens to public comment for at least 30 days. On or before May 3, those state parties then submit both the draft plans and any comments collected from the public to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for review. The RBC then approves the plan or more often requests some changes that state parties typically work on over the summer.

What Nevada Democrats released today, then, is not a finished product. It may or may not -- in whole or in part -- pass muster with the RBC.


The delegate toplines
The draft plan confirms that Nevada Democrats will have a total of 48 delegates apportioned to the state for 2020. That is five delegates more than the 43 total delegates the party had in 2016. As in 2016, there will be 36 pledged delegates in 2020 in the Nevada delegation. That includes eight at-large delegates, 23 congressional district delegates and five party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates. Most of that is just the same as it was for 2016. The only difference comes from the addition of one at-large delegate. That means that the remaining gain in total delegates cycle over cycle came entirely from the superdelegates (one governor, one senator and two additional Democratic members of the US House).

Just as in 2016, there is only one congressional district in Nevada with an odd number of delegates for 2020. This is a marginal consideration, especially in a winnowing contest (as opposed to those later contests where the game changes to counting delegates), but it can present an opportunity to the district winners in the rounding to determine the allocation of whole, rather than fractional, delegates. [There is some additional insight on this here in the table footnotes.]


The changes that will grab attention

...and affect strategy
The easiest thing to do here is to use previously released draft delegate selection plans from other caucus states as touch points. As FHQ mentioned recently in discussing the North Dakota draft plan, there is a range of responses to the new DNC rules regarding expectations for caucus states with respect to increasing participation. This scale runs from basically a party-run primary (North Dakota) to more traditional caucuses with alternate means of participating (Iowa). As was hypothesized then, the earlier carve-out state caucuses are in a position of having to dance around state law in New Hampshire because both Iowa and Nevada bookend the primary in the Granite state and have some interest in maintaining the delicate balance with regard to calendar scheduling. Later caucus state, then, may feel more empowered -- if they have the resources -- to move in the direction of so-called "firehouse caucuses" than the two earlier caucus states that must in some way tiptoe around the "similar contest"distinction that the New Hampshire secretary of state is charged with assessing.

Nevada, we would then expect, is closer to Iowa than North Dakota. And it is.

Like Iowa, Nevada will add virtual caucuses to its attempt at expanding participation in the overarching caucus process. In the draft plan, Nevada Democrats will add a couple of no excuse online fora for Democrats to vote on either Sunday, February 16 or Monday, February 17.

Unlike Iowa, Nevada Democrats plan on allowing a window for early voting at locations yet to be determined as well. The four day early voting window stretches from Saturday, February 15 through Tuesday, February 18 and will provide an additional outlet for participation.

Another important difference between the Iowa and Nevada draft plans is that Nevada Democrats are not capping the input that the virtual caucuses or early voting will have on the process. Recall that draft plan in Iowa limits the impact of the virtual caucuses in the Hawkeye state by capping the number of delegates moving on to the next step in the Iowa process to just 10 percent. That may or may not hold up to RBC scrutiny and remains something of an unknown moving forward. But comparatively, whereas the Iowa draft plan makes some attempt at preserving the traditional caucuses (through the virtual caucuses cap), the Nevada Democratic Party does not.

Nevada Democrats, then, are theoretically opening up the floodgates on participation. This has implications for how candidates and their campaigns will approach both states. In Iowa, the onus is on the campaigns to identify those caucusgoers who would be best suited for that format. Attempting to run up the score in the virtual caucuses will not yield a good return on investment because of that cap. Candidates, then, still have incentives to play the traditional caucus game in Iowa. The system is engineered toward that end.

But the incentives are different in Nevada (or will be if this plan or some variation of it is accepted by the RBC). With no cap, campaigns have every reason, if they have the resources to do so, to push as many of their supporters to participate in the virtual caucuses and early vote. On caucus day in Nevada, campaigns real motivation is to insure that grassroots activists and other diehard supporters who want to be delegates make it to the precinct to participate and move on in the selection process. Of course, campaigns can also try to squeeze out any additional leftover casual support on caucus day to the traditional caucuses. But the intent here is clear: those campaigns with the means and wherewithal will make every attempt to run up the score as much as possible through the new early outlets with the allocation process (how many delegates a candidate wins) in mind and focus more on the selection process (who fills a candidate's the allocated slots) on caucus day.

This is an important difference across the two states. But it also raises an important question.


More strategy 
No, none of the results to the virtual caucuses or early voting will be released until caucus day, but what does Bill Gardner think?

The New Hampshire law empowers the secretary of state to move the Granite state primary to a position that is seven days before any other similar contest. While Nevada will caucus on Saturday, February 22 -- 11 days after New Hampshire primary voters go to the polls -- both the new virtual caucuses and early voting window in Nevada stretch into the seven day window after the New Hampshire primary. If Iowa's virtual caucuses avoid the "similar contest" designation from Gardner, then they likely will in Nevada as well. However, Nevada also has that proposed early voting window. Gardner will likely wait until the fall to set a date, but this all -- whether in Iowa or Nevada, much less early voting in other states -- will give the New Hampshire secretary of state some factors to think about before he sets the date of the primary.


Other considerations
Although it is less clear in the Nevada draft plan (than in the its Iowa counterpart), there is seemingly ranked choice voting involved in both the virtual caucuses and early voting. Caucusgoers will not only provide their top preference, but additional preferences as well. The system is described in less detail in Nevada than in Iowa. The bottom line difference between the two, however, remains the fact that if one assumes more participation in early and virtual caucuses, then viability at the caucuses on actual caucus day are likely to be determined in the earlier voting outlets. But that assumes that there is not only greater participation in those earlier fora, but much greater participation. But if that comes to pass, the earlier results may have a significant effect on the decision-making of those attending the traditional caucuses on February 22 when all the votes are rolled into one pot from precinct to precinct.

There is still a balance there. Well-resourced campaigns may have incentive to run up the score in the earlier contests, but they still have some motivation to play the game in the traditional caucuses with respect to the selection process.

The comparison between Iowa and Nevada is an interesting one, but one explained by their positions on the calendar (pending draft plans from the remaining caucus states).


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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

On to the Governor: Super Tuesday Bill Passes Arkansas House

The Arkansas state House on Tuesday, March 19 took up SB 445, the bill to shift presidential year primaries from mid-May up to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.

Although there has been some resistance to this bill from county clerks in the Natural state and from some lawmakers for a variety of reasons across both legislative chambers, the Senate-passed presidential primary bill has enjoyed widespread support. That trend continued in a 74-8 vote to pass SB 445. Ten Democrats joined the majority of Republicans in the lower chamber in favor while only three Republicans cast nay votes against.

The measure will now be enrolled and sent to Governor Hutchinson (R) for his consideration. As the bill's Senate sponsor mentioned while the legislation was being considered there, the governor backs the bill. Arkansas now joins Utah as a Super Tuesday state in waiting. Legislation is before the governor in both states to move the primaries in line with other states on March 3, 2020.


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Hat tip to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for passing along the news of the bill's passage to FHQ.

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Related:
2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill


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Monday, March 18, 2019

Oregon Senate Bill Would Create Separate Super Tuesday Presidential Primary

Already this 2019 legislative session two bills have been introduced in the Oregon state House to position the Beaver state primary on the second Tuesday in March, a point on the calendar that would coincide with contests in neighboring Idaho and Washington. However, both bills have languished in committee since January.

In the meantime on the state Senate side of the capitol, a Republican-introduced bill would create a separate presidential primary and schedule it on the first Tuesday in March, Super Tuesday. And that bill -- SB 779 -- has had its initial public hearing where Rules Committee senators discussed some of the trade-offs involved in such a move. Obviously, creating a separate presidential primary bears some costs. Not only would the change require an extra appropriation, but it would additionally carry some costs relative to the second primary for state and local offices (still on the third Tuesday in May). There was, however, some question raised about just how much turnout would suffer given that the state of Oregon is a vote by mail state. Another point that was raised by those representing county clerks in the Beaver state was that they would be responsible for three elections in the span of about six months: the November 2019 general election, the proposed March presidential primary and the regular May primary. Filing for the March presidential would begin during the certification process attendant to the general election and continue through the holidays.

It is noteworthy that this last problem would not really be that much different for elections administrators if either of the two Democratic-introduced bills were to pass the state House. The late fall time constraints would remain, but there would not be a third election that would follow the presidential primary. Under the two House bills, the presidential primary would remain consolidated with the primaries for state and local office and everything would move into March. That said, the sponsor of one of the House bills -- HB 2107 -- Representative Brian Clem (D-21st, Salem), is the House co-sponsor of this Senate legislation as well alongside Senator Tim Knopp (R-27th, Bend).

The Senate Rules Committee did not act on SB 779, but it has cleared the public hearing hurdle whereas competing legislation in the House has yet to reach that stage despite being proposed earlier. All of the bills would pair Oregon with regional partners: California and likely Utah on March 3 or Idaho and Washington on March 10.


Related:
1/11/19: Pair of Oregon Bills Would Move Primary to March, but with a Twist


The Oregon legislation will be added to the evolving FHQ 2020 Presidential Primary Calendar.


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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

While legislation to reestablish a presidential in Maine under the same conditions as an expired 2016 law awaits a committee work session, another effort with a similar goal in mind has emerged.

The bill, sponsored by state Senate president, Troy Jackson (D-1st, Aroostook) and nine other Senate Democrats, would reestablish a presidential primary option, grant state parties the discretion to opt into using the state-funded contest, and leave the scheduling of the contest up to the secretary of state. LD 1083 provides the Maine secretary of state further guidance on scheduling, limiting the officer to any day in March. Each of those provisions, however, is exactly like those in the previously introduced LD 245.

Yet, LD 1083 is neither a replica of the other bill nor the bill reestablishing a presidential primary for a set second Tuesday in March date promised by the office of the secretary of state. No, LD 1083 is different because not only does it reestablish a presidential primary, but it applies the ranked choice voting system utilized in other primary and general election contests in the Pine Tree state.

Maine is not the first legislature where ranked choice voting has been raised in the context of presidential nominations in 2019. Legislators in neighboring New Hampshire are also considering the adoption of ranked choice voting in its presidential primaries. However, unlike the New Hampshire bill, the Maine effort does not clearly detail how the ranked choice system is to operate. The New Hampshire bill is designed with delegate allocation in mind, cutting off the elimination of candidates at those below the 15 percent threshold instead of winnowing to one winner. The Maine bill does not clearly account for the differences between the presidential primary and those for other offices. That said, the ranked choice law already on the books does grant the secretary of state some discretion in determining the rules of the ranked choice system in a given election. And the state parties, under the bill, are given the ability to select and allocation delegates in "accordance with any reasonable procedures established at the state party convention."

Although this bill has nine Democratic co-sponsors, it remains to be seen whether this bill will supplant the other active bill or anything from the secretary of state as the main vehicle for reestablishing the presidential primary in Maine. There will be a committee hearing on the ranked choice bill next week.

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Side Note: LD 1083 would also establish ranked choice voting as the means by which presidential electors are chosen -- still by congressional district -- as well. In other words, the intent is to apply ranked choice voting to both facets of the presidential election process.


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Related:
1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

2/9/19: Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts


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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Utah House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

On the final day of the 2019 regular legislative session, the Utah House passed SB 242 by a vote of 66-1 after no discussion on the floor. The measure reestablishes, funds and schedules the presidential primary in the Beehive state for the first Tuesday in March, Super Tuesday.

The change would align the Utah presidential primary with contests in 11 other states and territories (at this time) on the 2020 presidential primary calendar if Governor Gary Herbert (R) signs it into law.

This would potentially be the first time since the 2008 cycle that both parties have had the option of a primary in Utah. It was also held on Super Tuesday that year on February 5. Four years later, only Republicans in Utah held a late June primary; one that would have been non-compliant under DNC rules in 2012 had the party had a competitive nomination race that cycle. Instead Utah Democrats allocated and selected delegates to the national convention in a caucus/convention system. The legislature refused to fund the primary for the 2016 cycle and did not act on legislation to move the February primary option into compliance with national party rules.

SB 242 now heads to Governor Herbert for his consideration.



Related:
2/25/19: Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

3/7/19: Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

3/11/19 (a): Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah

3/11/19 (b): Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill


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Washington Presidential Primary Shifts Up to March 10 After Inslee Adds Signature

Presidential candidate and Washington governor, Jay Inslee (D) signed SB 5273 into law on Thursday afternoon, March 14, moving the presidential primary in the Evergreen state from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March.

The shift gives the governor a glimmer of something positive after Super Tuesday should he make it that far in the currently wide open race.

That said, there is some question as to whether Washington Democrats will ultimately opt for the newly timed primary or for the caucus/convention format the party has used throughout the post-reform era. While the primary law changes the date of the primary, it also alters the operation of the mail-in vote contest. Primary voters will now have to check a box on the Democratic ballot publicly affirming they are Democrats in order to have their ballots counted toward the vote that will determine delegate allocation to the national convention. That was the price Washington had to pay to bring their process (in a state with no partisan registration) in line with the national party rules.

The Washington State Democratic Party will make that primary or caucus determination at its April 7 state central committee meeting. The primary would be on March 10 and the caucuses on March 21. The month of delegate allocation is known, then, but the exact date remains on hold until April.

Washington becomes the first state to have legislation pass and be signed into law moving its primary during the 2019 state legislative session, but follows states like California and North Carolina that moved prior to this year for the 2020 cycle.

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The Washington primary change has been added to the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.


Related:
Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

After a hearing on SB 445 that saw opposition to the measure moving the presidential year primary from May to March, the Arkansas House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs passed the legislation on a voice vote.

While the committee passed the bill on to the House floor with a do pass recommendation, there was some resistance. As with the recent floor vote passing the bill on the Senate side, opposition to the two month move came from the from the membership itself. Representative Bruce Cozart (R-24th, Hot Springs) raised the issue that farmer/legislators might face with a later (April) fiscal session pushed back by a conflicting March primary election. The Libertarian Party of Arkansas took issue with the impact of an earlier filing deadline for independent candidates. And those representing both Arkansas county clerks and school boards brought up concerns with respect to the unevenness of the elections calendar from March in presidential years to May in gubernatorial years.

Despite that opposition, the committee passed the bill behind arguments that this legislation would 1) provide Arkansas voters with a voice in the presidential nomination process and 2) actually resolve the uncertainty around primary dates. On the latter point, SB 445 would make permanent the shift of the consolidated primary election in Arkansas rather than making the move, as the legislature did in 2015, but sunsetting the change after 2016. Future legislatures could still change the dates of the primaries, of course, but they would not be forced to look again at moving the date up if it was already in March.

There are not many other states that have uneven consolidated elections calendars like this, but Alabama is one, shifting primaries from March in presidential years to June in midterm years.

SB 445 now moves to the full House for consideration. It has already passed the Senate.


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Related:
2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill


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North Dakota Democrats Plan to Hold March 10 Firehouse Caucuses

North Dakota Democrats on Wednesday, March 13 released for public comment the party's draft 2020 delegate selection plan.

Traditionally, Democrats in the Peace Garden state have conducted caucuses as the means by which the party has allocated delegates to the national convention. But caucus states on the Democratic side face a burden in the 2020 that they have not faced in the past. The onus is on those state parties to make the case to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee that they have taken steps to maximize participation in the typically low turnout caucus/convention format. And the evidence thus far indicates that Democratic caucus states are reacting to the new encouragements in Rule 2 in different ways. Iowa Democrats, for example, have proposed new virtual caucuses. Nevada Democrats, too, have laid out plans for early voting in their caucus process.1

Now, with the release of the draft delegate selection plan, North Dakota Democrats have put their own unique spin on a more participatory caucus. Rather than a traditional moving caucus, the North Dakota Democratic-NPL will essentially conduct a party-run primary. Often this is called a firehouse primary because they have been, more often than not, held in firehouses, but North Dakota Democrats are using the term "firehouse caucus" -- verbiage that came out of the Unity Amendment that created the Unity Reform Commission and later appeared in the URC recommendations -- instead.

The terms -- firehouse caucus or firehouse primary -- are interchangeable as both are party-run primaries where typically no state-funded primary option is available. In practice, the difference rests on how many polling locations are set up. State-funded (and run) primaries offer more locations and theoretically greater participation. And while the party-run version has fewer locations, they run all day rather than the smaller and more rigid window used in the caucus format.

And that is the basic structure of the North Dakota plan. There will be 14 firehouse caucus locations set up throughout the state and polls will be open from 11am-7pm on Tuesday, March 10. [That is twelve weeks earlier than the first Tuesday in June caucuses North Dakota Democrats held in 2016.]

In addition to those changes, the party will also use a vote-by-mail process. What is clear about the vote-by-mail proposal is that it is intended to function much like the virtual caucuses in Iowa. Voters with conflicts during the hours in which the caucuses are in session have an alternative option available to them. And it is an option that is available from January 20-March 3. What is not clear is how the vote-by-mail system will operate; whether it will function on top of the state's vote-by-mail system or not. Most unclear is how ballots will be distributed to voters wanting to take advantage of the process. That is something the Rules and Bylaws Committee will train its sights on when this plan is reviewed.

It should likely be the expectation that other caucus states will fall in line with some variation of this plan rather than what Iowa has done and Nevada plans to do. Later caucus states will not have the same restrictions -- working around New Hampshire -- with their delegate selection plans like the other carve-out caucus states do.


The date of the North Dakota Democratic firehouse caucus will be added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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1 There are a great many things left unsaid about details of how the Nevada Democrats are going to accommodate early voting in the caucuses. FHQ will have more on that in a separate post.


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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Washington Democrats Will Allocate Delegates in March, but How?

Last week the Washington State Democratic Party released and opened for public comment their draft delegate selection plan for 2020. Only, rather than just one plan, the party released two plans contingent on the mode of delegate allocation the party opts to use during its April 7 central committee meeting. In doing this, the party has made the primary or caucus question the one most likely to draw public comment in the next thirty days before the central committee votes.

And bear in mind that while those comments are not binding on the decision of the state central committee, they are submitted along with the draft delegate selection plan of choice to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee as part of the plan approval process. Under the hypothetical scenario, then, that the party chooses to continue with the caucus/convention system as the means by which delegates from the state will be allocated and selected even in the face of public support for the primary, the party would have some explaining to do before the RBC. And that is doubly true considering 1) the Democratic primary bill that has made its way through the Washington state legislature is more likely than not to be signed into law and 2) the RBC will be operating under the guidance of Rule 2.K in which "[state] parties are encouraged to use government-run primaries."

In that situation, the Washington State Democratic Party would have to make a very persuasive case to the RBC for why the party chose caucuses over the primary pushed through and passed by a Democratic-controlled state government. And the Democratic bill got the green light -- that it would be consistent with DNC rules -- from RBC member and WSDP parliamentarian, David McDonald during the committee hearings in each legislative chamber.

That is a tough sell.

It seems, then, that the best case to be made for retaining the caucuses is one in which there is a groundswell of support for it in this public comment stage followed by a state central committee vote in favor of the caucuses.

But assuming Governor Inslee (D) signs SB 5273, then it is quite likely the party opts for the primary.

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Regardless of which option is chosen on April 7 in Washington, the two plans do clearly indicate a couple of important timing points. First, the date listed for the primary in the primary plan is March 10. It is clear then that the state party is assuming the primary bill heading to Inslee's desk -- the one moving the primary from May to March -- will be signed into law. Additionally, the alternate caucuses plan includes a Saturday, March 21 date for precinct caucuses should that plan be adopted and approved by the RBC. Should the party move in that direction, it would constitute a caucus/convention process that begins on the third Saturday in March rather than the fourth Saturday in March on which the precinct caucuses were held in 2016.



Related:
Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Monday, March 11, 2019

Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

In the waning days of the 2019 regular session, the Utah legislature is in hurry up mode. The state Senate today suspended the rules on required third readings of bills before blitzing through all the legislation remaining before it that originated in the upper chamber.

That included the first substitute to SB 242, the bill to reestablish a presidential primary in the Beehive state and schedule it for March 3. State Senator Curtis Bramble (R-16th, Utah/Wasatch) quickly introduced the bill on the floor and got an immediate thumbs up on the caucus-to-primary transition from Democratic Senate caucus manager, Senator Derek Kitchen (D-2nd, Salt Lake), who cited the last two cycles with troublesome caucuses on the Democratic side in Utah. The only question Bramble received on the bill concerned its fiscal impact. The $3 million price tag cited in response to Senator Lyle Hillyard's (R-25th, Cache) query was enough to push him into the nay column when the bill came up for a vote.

But Hillyard was only joined by one other member in opposition to the measure, and the bill passed 25-2 (with two additional members absent). SB 242 now moves over to the House side. The session comes to a close on Thursday, March 14.



Related:
2/25/19: Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

3/7/19: Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

3/11/19 (a): Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah


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Democrats Abroad Chart Out an Early March Presidential Preference Vote in Draft Delegate Selection Plan

Since 1976 American citizens and Democrats living and working overseas have had voting rights at the national convention through the Democratic Party Committee Abroad. That is no different for the 2020 cycle when 13 of 21 total delegates to the national convention in Milwaukee will be at stake in a global presidential preference vote.

As was the case in 2016, voting will take place over a week, beginning on Super Tuesday according to the Democrats Abroad draft delegate selection plan. While the voting begins on Super Tuesday, it will end a week later on March 10 should be draft plan be approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. Sanders was announced as the winner of the Democrats Abroad preference vote in 2016 nearly two weeks after voting -- which can take place in person, by mail, by email or by fax -- was complete.


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The dates of the DPCA preference vote have been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah

With little discussion on Friday, March 8, the Utah Senate Government Operations Committee unanimously sent SB 242 on to the full state Senate for its consideration.

The committee favorably reported the measure to reestablish a presidential primary in the Beehive state and schedule it for March 3 for the 2020 cycle. The state was without a presidential primary in 2016 and it has been since the 2008 cycle that both major parties in Utah used an available presidential primary in lieu of caucuses. The Utah presidential primary was on Super Tuesday in 2008 as well.

Technically, the bill passed and favorably reported was a substitute version of the original bill introduced by Senator Curtis Bramble (R-16th, Utah/Wasatch). But the change was made in a section concerning the canvassing process and not when or whether the primary would be held or funded.


Related:
2/25/19: Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

3/7/19: Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

3/11/19 (b): Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill


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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

On Thursday, March 7, the Arkansas state Senate moved with little vocal dissent to pass SB 445. The measure would shift up from late May to the first Tuesday in March the consolidated primary, including the presidential primary, in the Natural state.

In an 18-7 vote with another ten members either voting present, not voting or excused the bill passed and was sent to the state House for its consideration. Only Republicans supported the bill while the Democratic caucus was split between opposing the measure and voting present. Two Republicans voted no and explained why as the bill was considered on the Senate floor. One member, Sen. James Sturch (R-19th, Batesville), stood against the legislation due to the unresolved complaints from county elections officials (a dispute that came up during the committee hearing for the bill). The other Republican member in opposition, Sen. Blake Johnson (R-20th, Corning), argued that the bill's residual impact on when the state legislature holds fiscal sessions would disproportionately affect those members in the state in agriculture/farming.

Regardless, the SB 445 easily passed the state Senate and moves Arkansas closer to permanently shifting its presidential election year primaries to March. The House will take up the bill starting next week.


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Related:
2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill


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Friday, March 8, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Presidential Primary Movement (So Far and Yet to Come)

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...


Presidential primary maneuvering in 2019 has gotten off to a slow start.

Obviously, the 2017 shift of the California primary weighs heavily on how one views primary movement for the 2020 cycle. And while states have changed the dates of presidential primary elections in years other than the year before the presidential election year -- like California, North Carolina and the District of Columbia have done for 2020 -- that sort of movement is the exception rather than the rule. States tend to act under a couple of primary conditions. First, legislators often wait for a period of time when there is either more urgency to move or more information to better position a contest on the calendar is available. That combination of urgency and information aligns best when newly-elected state legislatures convene after the midterm elections.

In other words, that is right now in the quadrennial cycle.

And yet, things are seemingly off to a slow start. There are at least a couple of reasons for that. For those with memories longer than just the last cycle, recall that 2011 saw a flurry of activity as a host of states with February (or earlier) contests codified in state law had to make changes to comply with new national party rules that no longer allowed February primaries. State legislatures shot out of the gate in early in 2011 and kept a constant stream of legislation going into the summer months.

But not every state played along with the new rules in 2012 and so the Republican Party in particular increased its penalties for violating the timing restrictions placed on states for scheduling their primaries and caucuses. Cleaning up that residual 2012 mess for the 2016 cycle again provided a more narrowly cast urgency to some states to move and comply with the rules.

Before 2015, four states -- Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina -- had changed their dates for 2016. Two of those -- Arizona and Florida -- were rules breakers from 2012 and shifted back to compliant dates. Another, North Carolina, had moved to a more provocative, non-compliant position on the calendar. Combined, that alleviated some but not all of the state-level need to move. But by March 8, 2015, there still had been 20 bills introduced in state legislatures across the country, and while no state had officially moved in 2015, Florida was less than two weeks from codifying legislation to further clarify the date of the primary in the Sunshine state.


Early 2019 looks similar to 2015, but without the leftover rules breakers from the previous cycle. Yes, three states moved prior to 2019, two of them shifting a sizable chunk of delegates with them into earlier in March, but thus far just 16 bills have been proposed to change the dates of presidential primary elections in 2019 (and that includes the two 2016 caucus states, Maine and Utah, attempting to create and use presidential primaries for 2020). That is a far cry from the chaos of 2011.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of wildcards out there with the potential to add to the calendar logjam in March 2020. Colorado Democrats may be signaling a Super Tuesday primary, but that date can be officially set for any of the first three Tuesdays in March by the governor and secretary of state any time before September 1 this year. Georgia, too, grants the date-setting discretion to an officer outside of the legislature, the secretary of state. And new Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger (R) has until December 1 at the latest to settle on a date for the primary in the Peach state. Finally, New York remains a question mark. There have been some indications that a March date may be in the offing. However, that likely will not be settled until toward the end of the state legislative session in June if the past two cycles are any indication.

And keep an eye on the remaining Democratic caucus states as well. Those have tended to fall in the earlier part of the calendar in competitive cycles. Those states like Colorado and Georgia above could move into March outside of state legislatures where, so far, more attention has been granted to presidential candidate ballot access (proposed tax return requirements) than to maneuvering on the primary calendar.



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Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Announcements: Sherrod Brown takes a surprising pass on a White House run.

2. #MoneyPrimary: Inslee is not shy about accepting super PAC support.

3. #StaffPrimary: This is not about recent hires by any campaign, but instead about the diversity among campaign managers on board with the various Democratic campaigns at this point.

4. #[Non]EndorsementPrimary: Unlike her rivals, Gillibrand is struggling to pull in home-state support. Part of this can be explained away by the fact that the junior New York senator remains in exploratory mode, but only part.  That does tell us something, but we can do better than a simple binary treatment of the aggregation of endorsement data. There are tiers even here. Which candidates have locked down their home state delegations? Which have not? There are degrees there that help us at this early stage to begin to differentiate between candidates. Booker, for instance, fits in the former category while Warren falls into the latter. That, too, tells us something or at the very least gives rise to questions of why the disparity between the two despite being from similarly-sized blue states. Anyway, we can do better than haves and have nots even at this point in time. But Gillibrand is certainly in have not territory here.

5. #EndorsementPrimary: Harris gains the support of three San Francisco area mayors and another from further south in Long Beach. The junior California senator also reeled in the support of DC's attorney general.

6. Travelogue: Sanders hit Iowa before he heads to New Hampshire this weekend. DeBlasio will continue his early state tour in South Carolina. Inslee stopped by the Hawkeye state as well.

7. Moulton is still mulling, now on national security grounds. Of course, this is terrain that Biden has begun to emphasize as well.

8. Hickenlooper states the obvious: finish strong in Iowa or New Hampshire or go home. That is true for him and just about every other Democratic candidate.


Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.


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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

With the 2019 Utah state legislative session in its waning days, legislation has been introduced to schedule the newly funded presidential primary in the Beehive state for Super Tuesday.

State Senator Curtis Bramble (R-16th, Utah/Wasatch) has filed SB 242. The bill would not only schedule the presidential primary funded during the 2017 session for the first Tuesday in March, but would make some other technical corrections to the presidential primary code that has remained as part of the Utah statutes.

Mainly, those corrections consist of a couple of matters with respect the timing of the presidential primary. First, it strikes the outdated language referring to the contest as the Western States Presidential Primary, an artifact from the early 2000s when the presidential primary was first created. But second and more importantly, the legislation also removes a clause -- "the the legislature makes the appropriation" -- that makes the the default funding mechanism conditional on the legislature. Of course, the legislature retains the ability to end those appropriations, but now it is a given rather than requiring the legislature to take the proactive step of adding the funding.

The legislative session ends on March 14, so this one will have to move quickly.



Related:
2/25/19: Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

3/11/19 (a): Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah

3/11/19 (b): Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill


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Colorado Democrats Signal Super Tuesday Presidential Primary in Draft Delegate Selection Plan

The public release late last week of the Colorado Democratic Party draft delegate selection plan contained at least some indication that the newly reestablished presidential primary in the Centennial state will fall on Super Tuesday.

Indeed, that is the earliest date on which the Colorado governor in consultation with the secretary of state can set the date. But the pair have until September 1, 2019 under the new law to set the date for a Tuesday between the first and third Tuesdays of the March. That gives them a bit of discretion in choosing the most advantageous spot on the calendar for the Colorado primary. And that window is going to be jam-packed with contests. As of now, the first Tuesday in March -- Super Tuesday -- is the most delegate-rich date on the calendar, followed by the second Tuesday in March (if Washington finalizes a move to that date), and that is followed by the third most delegate-rich date on the third Tuesday in March.

That is the range in which Colorado can settle. And there are a number of different paths that can be taken. Again, the state Democratic Party and the secretary of state are assuming a March 3 date for the primary. That would not only be the earliest date allowed by the national parties for states other than the carve-out states to hold primaries and caucuses, but would be the earliest under Colorado law that the date could be set. But that is a date devoid of regional partners (unless one considers the behemoth contest further west in California). Utah, too, could end up on Super Tuesday. Other western partners -- Idaho and likely Washington -- would coincide with a Colorado primary a week later and neighbor Arizona has its primary on the third week in March.

Regardless, the governor and secretary of state have until September 1 to make that decision. All we have from Colorado Democrats and the secretary are assumptions -- signals -- that the primary in the Centennial state will fall on that date. However, the date remains an unknown and Colorado something of a wildcard on the 2020 presidential primary calendar.


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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Funding for the Idaho Presidential Primary "Slipped Through the Cracks"

Just when it looked like both Idaho parties would use the presidential primary election in 2020...


...came this news from Betsy Z. Russell at the Idaho Press:
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney forgot to budget for the 2020 presidential primary, creating an unpleasant $2 million surprise for legislative budget writers who set his office’s budget on Wednesday. 
The Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee had already set all but 4 percent of the state’s general fund budget for next year, working through it agency by agency over the past month, when Denney’s came up with a $2 million hole in it.
This is atypical. Usually if there is a funding issue with a presidential primary, it something that is initiated by the secretary of state or state legislature to save funds in a given state. Washington state, for example canceled its presidential primary during the 2012 cycle to cut back on expenditures and states like Alabama, California and New Jersey consolidated separate presidential primaries in the same cycle with the same intent.

But forgetting the appropriation entirely is a different matter. That is a new one to FHQ. But in Secretary Denney's defense, he is right that the appropriation for the 2016 primary was included in a parallel bill to the legislation to reestablish the presidential primary in the Gem state and not in the funding package. If one starts a new legislative year with the items in the appropriation package the session before, then something funded outside the main appropriations bill can potentially get lost in the shuffle.

Still...


What is at least somewhat noteworthy about all of this is that Idaho Democrats came to the conclusion last summer to utilize the primary in lieu of caucuses during the 2020 cycle and have already made plans -- via their draft delegate selection plan -- to do just that.

This will likely get worked out, but it is not a snafu that is all that common.


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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Washington State House Passes March Presidential Primary Bill

In a roughly party-line vote, the Washington state House on Monday passed legislation to move the presidential primary in the Evergreen state from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March.

SB 5273 passed the House by a 54-42 vote that saw just one Democrat from the chamber majority join House Republicans. This Democrats-for/Republicans-against pattern mirrored not only the vote at the committee stage in the House, but also the previous floor vote in Senate.

And the battle lines were the same. Republicans more sympathetic to Secretary of State Kim Wyman's (R) bill balked at the Democratic version throughout the legislative process for barring unaffiliated voters from participating in the primary and for making public which ballot voters choose. In fact, several Republican-sponsored amendments were raised on the House floor to reverse both changes to the primary law. One struck much of the language from the Senate-passed Democratic version of the bill and insert provisions from a Republican version left languishing in committee in both the state House and Senate. Two others were more narrow in scope, attempting to remove the data-gathering portion and allowing unaffiliated voters to participate through a separate mail ballot. A final Republican amendment took a different tack. It simply pushed the conflict items aside and addressed the primary date change alone.

None passed muster with a majority of the House, clearing the way for an up-or-down vote on the bill that came out of committee.

Since the version that passed the House is identical the Senate-passed version, the bill is done in the legislative branch and now heads off to Governor Jay Inslee (D) for his consideration.

And the governor may now have at least some interest in an earlier Washington primary (even if it follows Super Tuesday by a week).


Related:
Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Friday, March 1, 2019

New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

Rather than continue to amend his original bill, state Senator Trent Garner (R-27th, El Dorado) filed a new version of his legislation to shift up the date of the Arkansas presidential primary from May to the first Tuesday in March.

SB 445 was introduced on Tuesday, February 26 and the impetus behind the measure was to start with a clean slate and make some technical corrections to standardize the Arkansas election code. The new bill also moves the preferential primary from late May to the first Tuesday in March, but it makes the change permanent (something that was not the case in 2015 when the primary in the Natural state was similarly shifted but only temporarily). The legislation would permanently schedule the Arkansas consolidated primary for March in presidential election years and May in gubernatorial (midterm) years, while also allowing for school board elections to take place in either spot or during the November general election.

Garner in introducing the bill to the Senate State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee during a hearing on Thursday, February 28 made all the typical arguments for an earlier primary, focusing mainly on the potential attention the move to Super Tuesday would facilitate in the state and closed by saying that Governor Asa Hutchinson supported the shift. While there was some discussion among the committee members on the bill, most of it followed similar lines and was favorable. A representative for county clerks and elections administrators raised some red flags about the constant back and forth nature of the timing of Arkansas primaries in presidential years over time, but did not oppose the move.

After a brief hearing, the committee, on a voice vote with minimal dissent, signed off on the bill with a do pass recommendation. The measure now heads to the state Senate for consideration of the full chamber.


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Related:
2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Puerto Rico Democrats Eye March Presidential Primary Shift

In a nice #InvisiblePrimary piece about the role Puerto Rico might play in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process, Marc Caputo had a line that could have been lost in the shuffle if one was not paying close attention:
Adding to Puerto Rico’s political value, Gov. Ricardo Rossell√≥ is backing a plan to move the 2020 primary from early June to one of the final two weekends in March.
That is the sort of action that usually grabs FHQ's attention. And rusty though my Spanish may be, there is no bill currently before the Puerto Rico Assembly that would shift the date of the presidential primary on the island. I have checked.

So FHQ reached out to Caputo to see if there was any more light he could shed on the matter. While there is no bill with any language to change the June primary date to March for Democrats in the territory, Caputo shared with FHQ that there is a bill that may be used as a vehicle for pushing that change. S 1026, a still-active bill introduced in June 2018 by Senator Miguel Romero Lugo (PR-District I, San Juan), currently calls for a renaming of the presidential primary act and the addition of a requirement for presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns to appear on the primary ballot. The tentative plan is to amend that bill and tack on the Democratic presidential primary date change.

The current statute treats the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries differently.1 The Republican primary essentially defaults to the first Sunday in March while the Democratic primary follows three months later on the first Sunday in June. In some ways the set up is similar to the primary scheduling in South Carolina where the two parties' primaries are typically on separate days. But in the Palmetto state those two contests have tended to be only a week apart in years in which both parties have active nomination races.

Three months between contests in Puerto Rico is a bit different. But with this potential change -- if the bill above is amended -- the later Democratic primary would be nudged up the calendar into March, the same month as the Republican primary, albeit not on the same date. That would push another 51 pledged delegates into what is shaping up to the be the busiest month on the primary calendar.


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1 The statute setting the date of the presidential primary in the Puerto Rico is as follows:
§ 1324. Primary date  
The presidential primary of the Republican Party will be held on the last Sunday of the month of February of the year in which the presidential elections in the United States are to be held, as long as it does not precede or coincide with the celebration of the presidential primary of the State of New Hampshire. If there is such a conflict, the presidential primary will be held on the first Sunday of March. The Democratic Party presidential primary will be held on the first Sunday of June, that same year. In case of opting for a political party affiliated by the alternative of Assembly arranged in sec. 1350 of this title, it will be celebrated on these dates.
[Emphasis is FHQ's]


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When and if the Puerto Rico bill in question is amended with a provision to change the date of the primary there, FHQ will add it to the 2020 presidential primary calendar.

Hat tip to @heyitsfoxyyyy for bringing the Caputo piece to FHQ's attention.


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