Thursday, May 16, 2019

North Carolina Republicans Have Tweaked Their Delegate Allocation Formula, but...

North Carolina Republicans had a bit of a roller coaster ride in 2015 with respect to how the party's plans for delegate selection came together.

First, North Carolina law at the time tethered the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state to the primary in South Carolina. That was a position -- prior to March 1 -- out of compliance with the national party rules.

Then, in an effort to remedy the calendar issue, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation (which was subsequently signed into law) that not only shifted the primary election date back into compliance but called for a winner-take-allocation of delegates. The latter of those changes was then ignored by the North Carolina Republican Party when the party opted for a straight proportional allocation of national convention delegates.1

But most of that law expired after the 2016 primaries. The primary date reverted to its position tethered to the South Carolina primary and the allocation method called for in state law again defaulted to proportional.

However, the tinkering has continued on both fronts -- within the state party and in the state legislature -- during the 2020 cycle. But the actions from both in that span have conflicted with one another and again threatens the compliance of the NCGOP delegate selection process. At the same time that legislation was active in 2017 in the General Assembly to schedule the North Carolina presidential primary for Super Tuesday (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March), North Carolina Republicans were voting to make the method of allocation more winner-take-all. That legislation became law in 2018, pushing the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state into the proportionality window (where winner-take-all rules are conditionally prohibited).

Now, while that combination of primary date and allocation rules is non-compliant under 2020 RNC delegate selection rules, it is not a problem, per se. And FHQ will explain why in a moment. But first, let us step through the changes that have been made to the allocation rules to this point.

For the 2016 cycle, North Carolina Republicans pooled all of their delegates (at-large, congressional district and automatic) and proportionally allocated them based on the statewide primary results. Additionally, there was no defined qualifying threshold. In other words, 1) the 2016 NCGOP allocation method was a close to mathematical proportionality as it gets and 2) that allowed for candidates receiving a very marginal share of the statewide primary vote to win delegates. Ben Carson, for example, only won roughly one percent of the vote in the 2016 North Carolina primary, but that was good enough to round him up to one delegate of the state's 72.

Few other states had a bar set so low for a candidate to be allocated any delegates. North Carolina, then, was inconsistent in its method of allocation compared with its peer states, much less the entire pool of states and territories. That gave the NCGOP room for some maneuvering during the 2020 cycle. And tinker they did in 2017.

In assembling a new plan in 2017, North Carolina Republicans shifted away from low bar proportionality and added several new layers that are similar to neighboring states.
  • From the Tennessee Republican method, the NCGOP borrowed a fairly high, two-thirds winner-take-all threshold for the allocation of congressional district delegates. Of the states that have winner-take-all thresholds in the Republican nomination process, the vast majority set it at its lowest point, a bare majority. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote, then that candidate wins all of the delegates either statewide or within a given congressional district. A two-thirds winner-take-all trigger is obviously a more difficult bar to hit (especially potentially in a crowded field of candidates).
  • From the Georgia Republican allocation method, the NCGOP mimicked the unique proportional allocation scheme for congressional district delegates. If no candidate reaches the two-thirds threshold, then the allocation system awards two delegates to the top vote-getter and the other congressional district delegate to the second highest candidate, but only if both candidates are above the 20 percent qualifying threshold. If only the top candidate clears that barrier in a given congressional district, then all three delegates go to that candidate. That is the backdoor winner-take-all scenario (but confined to just the congressional district level).
  • From the South Carolina Republican allocation method, the NCGOP took its new method for allocating at-large delegates. Under the South Carolina system -- and now the North Carolina Republican system -- the plurality winner of the statewide vote wins all of the at-large delegates from the state. 
The elements borrowed from Tennessee and Georgia are both consistent with RNC rules. Yes, the combination contains winner-take-all elements, but those thresholds are rules-compliant. So, too, is the unique proportional allocation. No, that sort of top two allocation method is not exactly mathematically proportional, but there are only so many ways that three congressional district delegates can be allocated proportionally. This is one of them.

But the winner-take-all element that is akin to the South Carolina delegate selection process is not rules-compliant for a primary that is scheduled before March 15. And it is that segment of the NCGOP plan of organization that will have to change to come back into compliance.

That is a problem, right?

Technically, yes. But North Carolina Republicans are on top of it. A change to the at-large delegate allocation is on the agenda for the June 6-9 North Carolina Republican Party state convention in Concord. If adopted -- and the party has a persuasive case built on compliance issues to take to state convention delegates -- the allocation of at-large delegates would become more conditionally proportional. Under the proposal, the allocation of at-large delegates would...
  1. Remain winner-take-all in the event that such a scheme is consistent with national party rules. While it is not, the insertion of this element is crafted with future cycles in mind. Should the RNC rescind the proportionality window in the future, then the NCGOP already has language included to allow for a winner-take-all allocation of at-large delegates. Even without a change on that front from the RNC, the NCGOP would have the foundation in place for a winner-take-all allocation of delegates should the North Carolina primary be scheduled for a later date, outside the proportionality window. 
  2. Be proportional to all candidates with more than 20 percent of the vote statewide in the primary.
Those changes would bring the North Carolina Republican Party delegate selection process back into compliance with RNC rules. However, what is noteworthy is what is missing in this latest round of proposed changes. There is, for example, no equivalent two-thirds threshold to conditionally award all at-large delegates to a candidate in a way similar to the allocation of congressional district delegates.

In other words, this plan is not quite as helpful to an incumbent president as it could be. And that breaks to some degree from the narrative that the RNC in concert with state parties is working to engineer a delegate selection system that is maximally advantageous to President Trump. Like Massachusetts Republicans, the NCGOP plan moves in the direction of assisting the president, but unlike those Bay state changes, the North Carolina move does not turn the knob as far in the president's favor as it could have.


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1 "Ignored" may not be the best way of describing that. State parties ultimately have the discretion to set their own rules for delegate allocation. And the North Carolina Republican Party certainly used that discretion in the midst of the consideration the 2015 bill cited above. That said, the bill-turned-law set the method of allocation for winner-take-all, but allowed state parties an opt-out if that baseline was inconsistent with national party rules. But for Tar Heel state Republicans, a March 15 presidential primary was outside the proportionality window, and thus the winner-take-all scheme was compliant with national party rules. Nonetheless, North Carolina Republicans chose a proportional method of allocation with no qualifying threshold.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Magic Number? Determining the Winning Number of Democratic Delegates Will Be Tougher in 2020

FHQ gets a kick out of folks who authoritatively talk about the number of delegates the winning candidate will need in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race.

There are some things that one does know at this point about the chase for Democratic delegates in 2020. There are a lot of candidates (now). The allocation is all proportional (with a 15 percent qualifying threshold). California and North Carolina joining most of the Super Tuesday line up from 2016 means Super Tuesday 2020 will, in fact, be fairly super. Furthermore, one knows that the cumulative delegates allocated through the first two months of the 2020 calendar (February and March) is roughly on par with the number of delegates allocated through the first two months of the 2008 calendar (January and February).

All of this is useful, but it obscures one reality about the 2020 Democratic nomination process that is unknown at this point and may remain that way for some time: the actual number of delegates and thus the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Part of the reason for that is, for lack of a better term, normal, or it has been since the 2008 cycle. Since the Democratic process includes bonus delegates for timing (a 2008 cycle innovation) and clustering (new in 2012), the final tally of delegates has to wait on the calendar to solidify. New York,  for example, does not yet officially have a primary date. But if the Empire state primary ends up on April 28, as is expected given the draft of the state party delegate selection plan, then New York Democrats will tack on an additional 10 percent to the base delegation for an April primary (timing) and an additional 15 percent for scheduling the contest with primaries in regionally contiguous states (clustering). That is easy enough to work around, but it 1) is not reflected in the number of delegates the DNC is counting because 2) those bonuses will ultimately affect the number of delegates at stake.

Again, that is an easy enough adjustment. But it is just going to take some time to officially settle.

But there are two other factors that make the magic number of Democratic delegates necessary to clinch the presidential nomination more of a moving target in 2020 than has been the case in the past. And this is an issue that will stretch into primary season. Both hinge on the changes made to the rules regarding superdelegate participation in the process.

The first of these is more obvious. Since superdelegate participation in the voting on the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee is conditional, that affects which group of delegates is determinative. As FHQ laid out last summer when the rules package was adopted by the Rules and Bylaws Committee:
  1. If a candidate wins 50 percent of the pledged delegates plus one during or by the end of primary season, then the superdelegates are barred from the first ballot.
  2. If a candidate wins 50 percent of all of the delegates (including superdelegates) plus one, then the superdelegate trigger is tripped and that faction of delegates can participate in the first (and only) round of voting.
  3. If no candidate wins a majority of either pledged or all delegates during or by the end of primary season, then superdelegates are barred from the first round and allowed in to vote in the second round to break the stalemate.
In other words, if there is a presumptive nominee heading into the convention, then it is likely that the magic number it be a majority of all delegates (including superdelegates). Of course, that outcome is less knowable in the thick of primary season. But if the writing is on the wall by the end of primary season, then there is likely to be some movement between then and the convention that allows superdelegates back into the voting. And by "writing on the wall," FHQ means that the first ballot vote appears to be the formality that it has been since 1952. And, by extension, it will include all of the delegates -- pledged and superdelegates -- as it has since 1984.

However, early on in primary season, at least, there is likely to be a chase after two separate numbers: a majority of pledged delegates and an asterisk chase for a majority of all delegates. Candidates will go after the former because that is all that is technically needed to win the nomination. By the same token, however, campaigns will also target the latter. And in truth that chase is, perhaps, less about the majority of all delegates than it is about lining up superdelegates support contingent on a second ballot vote at the national convention. But that contingency will be one that requires a majority of all delegates because superdelegates will be eligible to vote on any ballot beyond the first.

The final complicating factor in determining the magic number of delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 again focuses on the superdelegates. But this one has less to do with the which question above (as in which pool of delegates is determinative) and more again about how many delegates are necessary. Unlike past cycles during the superdelegates era (1984-2016), superdelegates can shed their capes so to speak and run for pledged delegate slots. The DNC made that change because of the above changes made to superdelegate participation. In the event that a DNC member or elected official is so frustrated at potentially not being able to participate in the convention voting on the nomination, the party rescinded the prohibition on superdelegates running for pledged delegate positions. The new rules, then, allow superdelegates to run for pledged delegate positions if they want to guarantee that they will meaningfully vote to determine the nomination.

But that is not a costless exchange, at least not for the state delegation. Any superdelegate that opts to run for (and potentially win) a pledged delegate position gives up that superdelegate vote. Furthermore, that vote is not replaced as a vacancy in the pledged delegate pool would be. That would have the effect of reducing the number of delegates in a given state delegation by the number of superdelegates who choose to run for pledged delegate slots.

[Incidentally, this highlights at least part of the motivation to add superdelegates in the first place way back in 1982. Yes, superdelegates potentially have great sway in a tight nomination race and if they are largely united. But creating automatic slots for DNC members and elected officials also freed up pledged delegate slots for grassroots activists and gave state parties much more leeway in balancing their delegations given the DNC affirmative action requirements. That task gets much harder in 2020 if superdelegates are moved to run for pledged delegate slots.]

No, superdelegates running for pledged delegate slots does not affect the number of pledged delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Yet, if would affect the total number of delegates needed should the convention go beyond a first ballot. And if you are the braintrust within any of the Democratic presidential campaigns at this point, that is a jumble of rules that you have to keep tabs on. Some campaigns will be better able to adapt than others.

While the wait continues on the calendar to finalize, a word of advice: dismiss out of hand any mention in any story of a specific number of delegates needed to win the 2020 Democratic nomination. At this point, that number is not known.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

On Friday morning, May 10, the Maine Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee convened for a working session on a number of bills. Among those considered were a trio of bills attempting in various ways to reestablish a presidential primary election in the Pine Tree state.

The first two were treated together as they were basically the same bill. The only thing that separated the pair was the date on which the election was to be scheduled. LD 245 would leave the decision up to the secretary of state in consultation with the political parties in Maine. The other -- LD 1626 --would reestablish the presidential primary in Maine and schedule it for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March (Super Tuesday in 2020). Due to the similarity between the bills, LD 245 was unanimously voted down (as ought not pass) in order to make LD 1626 the vehicle for creating the presidential primary in this way.

However, after amending LD 1626 -- fixing some typos, correcting some cross-reference issues and adding a provision to allow state parties to allow unaffiliated voters in the state to choose which primary in which to participate -- sentiment on the committee was still evenly split. And the point of contention was the financing of the election (something that came up in the original public hearing for LD 245). Five committee members balked at the financial burden the election would place on municipalities. But the committee recommendation on the amended bill was complicated by the absence of one member -- Rep. Craig Hickman (D-81, Winthrop) -- during the voting on an ought not pass recommendation. His return for the vote on a do pass recommendation equalized the number of votes in favor of both recommendations. The voting on these reports remains open under Maine legislative rules until noon of the next legislative day.

If anything, all this does is demonstrate to the leadership on the floors of either legislative chamber the division over this bill in committee. That does not doom the legislation, per se, but other bills may be prioritized.

And that brings this back to the other bill the committee considered; the bill (LD 1083) to reestablish the presidential primary but under a ranked choice voting system. The catch with that one -- although it was not discussed -- is that it, too, would carry a similar financial burden for municipalities across the state of Maine. What did come up were a number of conflicts in the bill that would be rectified by another measure to clean up the operation of the overall ranked choice voting system the state has adopted for other federal elections. Pending consideration on those measure, the committee opted to table consideration of the ranked choice presidential primary.

All in all, the committee working session did little to advance the reestablishment of a presidential primary in Maine. LD 245 was eliminated from consideration, but the remaining two bills remain in limbo for the time being.

Thanks to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for passing along news of the committee session.

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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

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine


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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Massachusetts GOP Rules Change Adds an Element of Winner-Take-All to 2020 Delegate Allocation

The Massachusetts Republican Party has adopted changes to its method of allocating national convention delegates for the 2020 cycle according to Stephanie Murray at Politico. New in 2020 will be a winner-take-all trigger that will award all of the Republican delegates in the Bay state to any candidate who receives a majority of the vote in the Super Tuesday Massachusetts primary.

While that addition is not without import, one should take a step back before ramming it into the "change the rules to help Trump" narrative. On the surface, adding a winner-take-all trigger would theoretically benefit a popular (within party) incumbent president. And that is more true in light of the facts (at this time) that President Trump is likely to face only token opposition and from a very limited number of candidates. The closer the number of challengers is to one, the greater the chances are that Trump hits the winner-take-all trigger.

That sounds like advantage Trump, right?

Yes, but as is often the case with respect to rules changes, there is a bit of context that is missing from the Politico piece.

First, Murray overstates the extent of the change via a misleading description attributed to Dean Cavaretta, Trump's 2016 Massachusetts state director. The rules change does not "eliminate" the traditional proportional allocation of delegates in Massachusetts. Instead, it makes the overall allocation conditional on the results. If no candidate receives a majority, then the allocation is proportional among all qualifying candidates. However, if one candidate clears the majority threshold then a winner-take-all allocation is triggered.

And that reality neatly dovetails with another issue in the Politico story: the replication of these winner-take-all triggers in other states. But here is the thing: Massachusetts is actually joining other early calendar states on the Republican side in using a conditional trigger in the allocation process. FHQ says "early" because under the rules of the Republican party for 2020, states with delegate selection events prior to March 15 have to meet the RNC definition of proportional in the state-level allocation rules. But while states have to maintain some measure of proportional allocation, winner-take-all triggers are allowed and can be set as low as 50 percent. This is what Massachusetts has done with its rules change for 2020. The party has added a trigger.

But again, that addition brings the Massachusetts Republican delegate allocation process in line with other early states. Of the eleven Super Tuesday states with defined allocation rules in 2016, Massachusetts was one of just three to lack a winner-take-all trigger. And six of the remaining eight states set a winner-take-all trigger of 50 percent. [The other two had much higher winner-take-all thresholds.]

The question, then, is not really whether other states will replicate the Massachusetts Republican strategy, but rather, whether the small number of states without those triggers will add them and join the majority of states that had them as part of their rules before Trump even came down the escalator in June 2015.

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The trigger addition won the headlines, but the real essence of this change is geared toward the delegate selection process. It is on that front that the Massachusetts Republican Party has had some issues over at least the last two presidential nomination cycles, issues this change in allocation method indirectly impacts.

The 2016 RNC Rules Committee meeting that preceded the national convention in Cleveland saw a showdown over the binding of delegates (based on the results of primaries and caucuses). During the 2016 nomination process a vocal minority of activists argued against binding based on the fact that delegates elected/selected may have other allegiances. In other words, the two processes -- allocation and selection -- could point in different directions. Trump could overwhelmingly win a Massachusetts primary and be allocated a set number of delegate slots, but Cruz candidates for delegates in the Bay state could be selected to fill some of those slots. As the argument went, those Cruz-sympathetic delegates could not, under the rules, be forced to vote for Trump at the convention.

However, that argument lost at the 2016 Republican National Convention. But it was spurred, in part, by things that had happened in Massachusetts in 2012 and 2016. In 2012, it was Ron Paul delegate candidates in Massachusetts who were selected to Romney-won slots from the Super Tuesday Massachusetts primary. They later were disqualified. And the Ted Cruz campaign attempted to follow the Paul plan in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) in 2016.

But those problems lie in the selection process, not the allocation process.

[UPDATED, 5/7/19 1:45pm]

And the Massachusetts Republican Party addressed that as well. In lieu of the problematic caucus/convention process, the party has shifted the delegate selection responsibility to other entities. Under the new plan, the state party chair would select one-third of the 27 congressional district delegates, the state committee would select another third of the congressional district delegates and the qualifying presidential candidates would select the remaining third of the congressional district delegates and the 11 at-large delegates.

This is the bigger change. This is the change that most benefits Trump and especially if the president clears the 50 percent winner-take-all threshold. There is far less room for the sorts of shenanigans that  hampered the party in its delegate selection process each of the last two cycles.

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Thanks to Evan Lips, Communications Director at the Massachusetts Republican Party for passing along the plan adopted last week by the party's State Committee.

Quick glance at the delegate allocation process:

  • The plan confirms that the baseline allocation is proportional (as it has typically been in Massachusetts). 
  • To qualify for delegates, a candidate must win at least 20 percent of the vote. That is an increase over the 5 percent qualifying threshold the party used in 2016. It is also the maximum qualifying threshold allowed under RNC rules for 2020. That means that the protest vote would have to be quite large against an incumbent president running for renomination for any challenger to receive delegates under this plan. 
  • Again, as stated above, if a candidate receives a majority of more of the vote in the Massachusetts Republican presidential primary, then that candidate is allocated all of the state's delegates. 
  • There is no backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation. This can in some states happen if a candidate is the only candidate to clear the qualifying threshold but not the winner-take-all threshold. Hypothetically, for example, if Trump again received 49 percent of the vote in the Massachusetts primary (as he did in 2016), then under the 2020 Massachusetts Republican rules, at least the runner-up would receive some delegates even if that runner-up received less than 20 percent of the vote. Again, using the 2016 results but 2020 rules, Kasich would have received a share of the delegates (split with Trump) even though he only got 18 percent of the vote in the primary. Rubio, less than a thousand votes behind Kasich would be locked out of the allocation. 



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Monday, May 6, 2019

Committee Hearing Finds Both DC Parties in Favor of a Presidential Primary Move

At a meeting last week of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, the Washington, DC Council heard a discussion on the proposed shift of the presidential primary date in the district.

Both DC Republican Committee executive director, Patrick Mara, and DC Democratic State Committee chair, Charles Wilson, spoke in favor of pushing the district's primary up two weeks to the first Tuesday in June and both for the same reason. Where the DC primary is scheduled now -- a position it was moved to in 2017 -- it falls too late on the calendar under the rules of both the Democratic and Republican National Committees. Each party would face penalties reducing the size of already small delegations to the respective national conventions in 2020. The DC Republican Party position was simple enough: pick a date, any date between the first Tuesday in March and the second Saturday in June in order for the Republicans in the district to avoid paying for their own party-run and limited process (as the party did in 2016).

Wilson, however, brought up the more robust discussion the DC Democrats had back in early March. At that party meeting, the committee considered not only the June 2 date, but also an April 28 alignment with other regional partners in the Acela primary. The issue with the latter that was raised both at that meeting and in the context of the Council hearing last week was that the window for petition gathering would encompass holiday season at the end of December. While that may not be as large an issue for Democratic presidential candidates, it would potentially harm the efforts of local candidates vying for a spot on the consolidated primary ballot.

It was that snag that kept District Democrats from latching onto the April 28 position, despite the 25 percent bonus (10 percent for an April primary and 15 percent for clustering the contest with two or more regional partners) the party would receive for conducting a primary on that date. Splitting the presidential and district primaries was a non-starter in the committee hearing because of the attendant costs associated with funding an additional election.

June 2, then, looks like the date that threads the needle of bipartisan support, national party rules compliance, cost effectiveness and is candidate/campaign friendly. And for Democrats in the District, not all is lost. The bonus associated with a June 2 primary is 20 percent, an additional two DC delegates to the Democratic National Convention.


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Related: 
4/5/19: DC Council Eyes Earlier Primary with New Bill

2/7/19: DC Presidential Primary on the Move Again?

5/15/18:  Washington, DC Eases Back a Week on the Calendar


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Friday, May 3, 2019

Puerto Rico Democrats Further Signal a Primary Move to March

The Puerto Rico Democratic Party wrapped up the public comment period for its draft of their 2020 delegate selection plan on April 30.

The draft plan looks a lot like the plan used in 2016. And that is largely a function of the fact that the election is a government-run primary. Any changes come through the legislature on the island territory.  But while this plan looks at first glance like the 2016 plan, there are a number of mentions of possible changes.

One is the date of the contest. In one footnote to the first Sunday in June date called for, the plan adds:
However, the Governor has announced he plans to submit amendments to the Compulsory Presidential Primaries Act that include, among other things, moving the date for the Democratic presidential primary to the second Sunday of March of the year in which the presidential elections are held. This could move forward the primary for March 8, 2020. If the law is amended, the DPPR would accordingly file an amended Delegate Selection Plan.
This is nothing new. News of a potential Puerto Rico presidential primary move broke in February. But the fact that this appears in the delegate selection plan confirms the idea that the primary may align with the Republican primary in early March. The legislation now sets the Republican contest for the first Sunday in March unless it conflicts with national party rules. And a March 1 date would fall before the first Tuesday in March, making any contest -- Democratic or Republican -- non-compliant with those rules.

Another area of potential change via legislation comes based on the changes to Rule 2 in the Democratic Party delegate selection rules. The changes there have shifted an additional responsibility on state parties to demonstrate steps taken to broaden participation. There is reference in the Puerto Rico plan of legislation to potentially extend early voting to all voters for any reason; a no excuse system.

But again, like the date of the presidential primary, those changes would have to be passed by the Legislative Assembly in Puerto Rico. And additionally, that action would ostensibly have to occur prior to the assembly's recess beginning on July 1 and running through August 11. But while that is during the period of DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee review of state delegate selection plans, the acts of legislatures operate outside of the national party's purview.


As of now the Puerto Rico Democratic presidential primary will remain on June 7 on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Related:
2/28/19: Puerto Rico Democrats Eye March Presidential Primary Shift


Hat tip to Luiso Joy for bringing the Puerto Rico plan to FHQ's attention.


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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Kansas Democrats Settle on May Party-Run Primary

The Kansas Democratic Party on Thursday, May 2 released their 2020 draft delegate selection plan, exactly one year ahead of when the party intends to hold a presidential preference primary.

Like Alaska, Hawaii and North Dakota Democrats, Democrats in Kansas are shifting away from traditional caucuses and toward a mode of delegate selection closer to a primary. While the window for voting in the May 2 party-run primary in the Sunflower state is fairly narrow -- 10am-2pm -- that is offset by 1) the contest being scheduled for a Saturday and 2) the party allowing for absentee voting (by mail) from March 30 through April 24. Additionally, although the field is likely to have winnowed to some degree by the beginning (March 30) of that absentee window, registered Democrats in Kansas will use a ranked choice voting ballot. Absent additional details, it would appear that voters will have a full list of candidates to rank order on the ballot (unlike the variation in Alaska where voters choose/rank their top three).

Moreover, Kansas would become the largest state to adopt a party-run primary approach to delegate selection process, and that bigger potential electorate entails a larger cost to the process. Those costs are borne out through the need for addition voting locations and volunteers to staff them. The draft Kansas plan does indicate that the party will have at least one primary day voting location in each of the Sunflower state's 40 state senate districts. While the allocation of delegates to the national convention will be based on the results of the May 2 primary, the selection process will follow starting with May 9 state senate district conventions, May 16 congressional district conventions (where congressional district delegates will be chosen) and a June 6 state convention (where at-large and PLEO delegates will be selected).

Finally, Kansas Democrats have 39 delegates (which includes six superdelegates) under the Democratic Party delegate apportionment formula. However, due to the proposed date of the party-run primary -- after the May 1 -- the party would gain an additional 20 percent bonus on its base delegation. That would likely tack another six delegates onto the total number of Kansas delegates heading to the national convention in Milwaukee.


Related:
3/13/19: North Dakota Democrats Plan to Hold March 10 Firehouse Caucuses

3/26/19: Hawaii Democrats Aim for an April Party-Run Primary in Lieu of Caucuses

3/31/19: Alaska Democrats Plan on April 4 Party-Run Primary



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The Kansas Democratic party-run primary date is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.


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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Governor Polis Sets Colorado Presidential Primary Date for Super Tuesday

Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) on Tuesday finalized the date of the 2020 Colorado presidential primary.1 In consultation with the Colorado secretary of state, the governor chose Super Tuesday from a narrow range of March Tuesdays as defined in statute after a 2016 ballot initiative reestablished the presidential primary option.

The decision aligns the Colorado presidential primary with primaries or caucuses in 13 other states and territories. Already the most delegate-rich date on the 2020 presidential primary calendar, the addition of primary in the Centennial state puts even more weight on the March 3 Super Tuesday.

This will be the first cycle in which Colorado has conducted a presidential primary since a three cycle run from 1992-2000. Parties in the state have held caucuses since then.


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1 Full press release from Governor Polis's office announcing the date:

Governor Polis and Secretary of State Griswold announced March 3rd, 2020 as Colorado’s new presidential primary date

TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2019

DENVER — Today Governor Jared Polis and Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced March 3rd, 2020 as the new date for Colorado’s presidential primary. The two were joined by leaders from the Democratic, Republican, Unity American Constitution and Approval Voting parties.

“Our Super Tuesday primaries will be a tremendous opportunity to participate in democracy and for Coloradans to have their voices heard by presidential candidates in all parties,” said Governor Jared Polis. “We are proud of 2018’s record turnout, as well as Colorado’s status as a leader on voting rights. We hope to build on that momentum by participating in a primary along with other Super Tuesday states to ensure that all major candidates listen firsthand to the concerns of Colorado voters.”

In 2016, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 107, which restored primary elections in Colorado in presidential election years. The state was previously using the caucus system.

“I am excited to join Governor Polis in officially setting March 3, 2020 -- Super Tuesday -- as the date for Colorado’s 2020 presidential primary. This will be the first presidential primary in Colorado in 20 years -- and the first where unaffiliated voters will be able to participate,” said Secretary of State Jena Griswold. “As Colorado’s Secretary of State, I believe in the power of our democracy. A secure and accessible presidential primary will give Coloradans the opportunity to create the future we imagine.”

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The Colorado primary date is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.


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Thursday, April 25, 2019

New York Democrats Signal an April Presidential Primary

After a one cycle departure, it appears as if New York will rejoin the late April Acela primary for 2020.

Empire state Democrats have indicated in the party's draft delegate selection plan that the 2020 presidential primary -- currently scheduled for February 41-- will fall on April 28. That would once again align the New York primary with primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. That mid-Atlantic/northeastern regional primary formed in the aftermath of the 2008 cycle when New York, Connecticut and Delaware all held February primaries that, while allowed under national party rules in 2008, would have been in violation in 2012 under the new rules in both parties. Those moved to late April to coincide with the traditional Pennsylvania primary date and were joined by Rhode Island (which had a more modest move from March to April).

That changed in 2016. Most of the Acela primary states held pat, but New York pushed forward a week to mid-April. Democrats in the state did not want the primary to fall in the middle of the Passover commemoration. The remaining four states, however, were joined by Maryland. But without New York, the grouping was a noncontiguous five state regional primary.

That is important because there are incentives built into the Democratic delegate selection process. New York benefited in 2016 from holding an April primary. The delegation from the Empire state got a 10 percent boost. But by breaking from the other states, New York Democrats missed out on an additional 15 percent bonus for clustering with two or more neighbors. Additionally, New York's move affected Connecticut and Rhode Island. By cutting the two northeastern off from those in the mid-Atlantic, it cost Connecticut and Rhode Island the clustering bonus laid out in the Democratic call for the convention.

With New York hypothetically back in late April as the bridge between Connecticut and Rhode Island in the northeast and Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania in the mid-Atlantic, all six states would be in line for a 25 percent bonus -- 10 percent for April primaries and 15 percent for a clustering of three or more contiguous states -- to their base apportionment of delegates. That would take a six state group with 543 pledged delegates and increase the total by roughly 120 delegates (across all six states). That is more than double the number of bonus delegates that California lost in its more from June 2016 to March 2020. And significantly, that is a large chunk of delegates at stake in an area of the calendar where presumptive nominees have emerged. But those presumptive nominees have not typically broken the 50 percent plus one delegate barrier by that point. Rather, the gap in the delegate count has been sufficiently large (considering the remaining delegates to be allocated) to force the remaining viable competition from the race. Both Romney and Trump benefited from the Acela primary cluster in 2012 and 2016, respectively. However, that regional primary played less a role in the one-on-one 2016 Democratic nomination race. Sanders lingered well after that point, competing against the delegate math through the end of primary season.

That may be a lot to digest, but the delegate math -- both the overall trajectory in primary season and the bonuses to the state party -- seem to have figured into the primary date decision making within the New York state Democratic party. Of course, this remains unofficial until the legislature in New York makes the change. Typically the legislature waits on input from the state parties with respect to what a compliant date would be relative to the national party rules and then introduces and passes a bill in the late spring. That step remains in this process.


New York's position and those of other states can be found on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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1 While the New York presidential primary is currently scheduled to coincide with the February spring primary, it is only a placeholder on the calendar to which the primary reverts every cycle. The standard operating procedure that has emerged in the Empire state over the last several cycles has seen the state legislature set the primary for April, but also make the change temporary. The date change typically sunsets at the end of the presidential election year and returns the primary to February.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

New legislation introduced on April 23 would reestablish a presidential primary in Maine and schedule the election for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March; Super Tuesday.

LD 1626 now becomes the third bill to reestablish a presidential primary election in the Pine Tree state this legislative session. And it follows a successful, albeit temporary, reestablishment during the 2016 session that had a sunset provision that expired toward the end of 2018. Of the three bills, the latest is the most streamlined. It strips out the secretary of state discretion for scheduling a presidential primary from LD 245 and removes the ranked choice components from LD 1083.

The new legislation calls for the state party committees to notify the secretary of state whether there is a contested presidential nomination by November 1 of the year prior to the presidential election. And the secretary of state then begins preparation for a primary for the party or parties with active races for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.

Senator Louis Luchini (D-7th, Hancock) introduced this legislation alongside nine other co-sponsors of both parties. Whether this is meant to serve as a replacement to Luchini's earlier bill (LD 245) and/or if this is the bill promised by the secretary of state's office back in February remain open questions. But the bill would reestablish a presidential primary in Maine and schedule it for Super Tuesday.


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The new Maine legislation has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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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

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary


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Friday, April 19, 2019

Wyoming Democrats Will Caucus in March

...but the specific date remains TBD.

At the tail end of March, the Wyoming Democratic Party quietly released the proposed details of its 2020 delegate selection process. The draft delegate selection plan is more modest compared to some of the changes offered up in other caucus states. Whereas the majority of the remaining caucus states are exploring some variation of party-run primaries (Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota) and/or ranked choice voting (Iowa, Nevada), Democrats in Wyoming are keeping the caucus/convention process in the Equality state in line in most respects with the process the party has utilized in past cycles.

Much of it, however, remains an unknown until after the Wyoming Democratic Party state central committee meeting on April 27. For instance, much is unsaid -- in fact it is literally left out -- about efforts at increasing participation as called for in Rule 2 on the DNC delegate selection rules for 2020. Those blanks will (likely) be filled in after the SCC meeting.

What is known about the process is that Wyoming Democrats will once again conduct caucuses for the 2020 cycle and those will fall some time in March; up to a month earlier than the April 9 caucuses the party held in 2016.

Additionally, the party will pool all of their 13 delegates in the selection process. Instead of applying the 15 percent threshold to district, at-large and party leaders/elected official delegates -- three separate, individual applications -- as is customary, Wyoming Democrats will apply it only once to the 13 delegate pool. It is a small change in a small delegate state, but one that could have an effect on allocation on the margins. At most it affect the rounding for who would get delegates and who does not (and how many). This one will be worth monitoring as it works its way through the review process. How receptive the Rules and Bylaws Committee is to that transition in the rules remains an open question. But again, the shift breaks with how allocation is typically done in the Democratic process. There is far more pooling of delegates in the Republican process.


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The Wyoming caucuses change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Signs Delaware Presidential Primary is Staying Put

Back in January, FHQ, discussing prospective primary movement during the 2019 state legislative sessions convening across the country, highlighted the group of mid-Atlantic/northeastern states that have seeming settled in late April since the 2012 cycle. Under Democratic control, states like Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island not only moved away from February presidential primary dates leftover from the 2008 cycle, but moved deeper into the calendar for the 2012 cycle and have stayed there.

That made more sense in 2012 when Barack Obama was seeking renomination on the Democratic side -- the stakes were lower and the costs of a later primary less -- but that group of Acela corridor states maintained their April positions despite an open nomination in 2016. Now, it could be argued that during the time that primary date changes were being considered by state legislatures in 2015, Hillary Clinton was a prohibitive favorite to win the 2016 nomination. States with Democrats in control of state government, in turn, may have been less likely to make any changes to the presidential primary date.

But the outlook for the 2020 nomination is and has been a wide open race. Yet, in none of those states, save New York (which operates under a unique set of circumstances), have made any moves toward a presidential primary change. All has been quiet. And that silence typically will signal no primary movement.

However, there has been an additional signal out of Delaware. No, there is no proposed presidential primary date change, but for the second consecutive state legislative session in the First state, there is an effort underway to attempt to align the September primaries for state and local offices with the presidential primary in April. HB 89 passed the state House in Delaware in 2017, but died in the state Senate. And now in 2019, HB 41, a nearly identical proposal, has so far followed a similar trajectory. The plan to consolidate state primaries with the April presidential primary flew through the state House in January, but has again hit the wall in the state Senate.

The legislative session adjourns in June and the bill still has time to work its way through the state Senate, but the proposed move is less important for the move than it is for the anchor point on the calendar.1 Linking those primaries for state and local offices to the presidential primary in Delaware is the clearest active effort among those April Acela primary state signaling a non-movement. The others have been more passive at this point.



As of now, Delaware is scheduled to have an April 28 presidential primary on the latter half of the 2020 presidential primary calendar.


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1 Delaware was a late mover in 2011, the last time the state shifted its presidential primary date. That legislation was passed toward the end of the legislative session that cycle.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Utah Democrats Will Use New Presidential Primary Option for 2020

With the release of a draft of its 2020 delegate selection plan, the Utah Democratic Party has confirmed that it will utilize the new presidential primary signed into law recently by Governor Gary Herbert (R).

The confirmation means that Utah Democrats will return to a primary for delegate allocation for the first time since the 2008 cycle. The state party opted for caucuses in 2012 when there was no national party rules-compliant primary option. The February date in state statute was too early and the late June option added that cycle for state Republicans was too late. Both parties used caucuses in 2016 when the presidential primary was not funded by the state.

Like the last time Utah Democrats used a primary for delegate allocation in 2008, the election will fall on Super Tuesday. In the Democratic delegate apportionment formula, Utah is not delegate-rich, falling behind ten of the 13 states now slated to hold delegate selection events on Super Tuesday.

Finally, in the switch from 2016 caucuses to 2020 primary, Utah becomes part of another trend. The Beehive state now joins Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska and Washington state as states to have opted into state government-run primary elections for the 2020 cycle.

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The Utah Democratic Party decision opt into the primary will be reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.



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

3/14/19: Utah House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

4/1/19: Utah Presidential Primary Shifts to Super Tuesday


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Monday, April 8, 2019

Washington State Democrats Opt for Presidential Primary Over Caucuses

It was decision time this past weekend as the Washington State Democratic Party convened in Pasco. Among the items on the agenda was delegate selection in 2020. Chiefly, the question before the Rules Committee on Saturday and the State Coordinating Committee on Sunday was whether the party would continue to use the caucus/convention system it has used to allocate and select delegates to the national convention throughout the post-reform era.

But a newly early and revamped semi-open presidential primary bill signed into law in March removed most of the conflicts the Democratic Party in the Evergreen state have historically had with the primary option available to Washington parties in the past. Moreover, the state party has been facing pressure from vocal Democrats in the state to make the process more democratic; something that was demonstrated by the over 93 percent support for the primary option in an unscientific poll open during the draft delegate selection plan public comment period. On top of that, the national party rules for the 2020 cycle urge state parties to increase participation and use state-run primaries where available.

In total, that was enough to nudge the Washington State Democratic Party to break with tradition. By a vote of 11-5 on Saturday, the Rules Committee recommended that the party shift to the primary option. That was followed on Sunday by 121-40 vote by the State Coordinating Committee in favor of a primary.

The decision officially moves Washington Democrats into a March 10 slot on the 2020 presidential primary calendar. That primary will coincide with contests in six other states including the primary in neighboring Idaho.


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The Washington primary change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.


Related:
1/16/19: Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Friday, April 5, 2019

DC Council Eyes Earlier Primary with New Bill

Last week the Democratic Party in Washington, DC released for public comment its draft delegate selection plan for 2020. However, one of the details missing from the document was a date for the planned presidential primary in the district. That is all the more unusual because the primary date set in district statute.

But there are at least a couple of catches with the third Tuesday in June date outlined in the law. First, that date is too late in the calendar and thus non-compliant under national party rules. The district party would face penalties from both national parties if it chose to allocate delegates through a primary scheduled so close to the convention. Alternatively, it might force one or both major parties in the district to shift to a caucus/convention as DC Republicans did for 2016.

What has also given DC Democrats pause in filling in the primary date in the delegate selection plan is that there is some uncertainty about where on the calendar the primary will land. Yes, the date is currently set, but the DC Council is considering a change. Only, the change is not nearly as dramatic as some of the Democratic members of the Council were speculating about during a February meeting of the DC Democratic Party district central committee. Back then there was talk of aligning the DC presidential primary with the primaries in Maryland and Pennsylvania at the end of April.

Now, however, there has been a bill introduced in the DC Council to move the primary, but not into April. Instead, the plan laid out in B23-0212 is to nudge the DC primary up to the first Tuesday in June in presidential years (leaving the primary in midterm years to remain on the third Tuesday in June). This is a modest shift but it would be enough to move the DC presidential primary back into compliance with the national party rules.

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One footnote to add to the predicament in which the DC parties and Council find themselves, is that if this shift is successful it would represent the second change to the DC primary schedule since 2017. The Council made the decision in 2018 to move the primary from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June. In other words, one step back was needed to move two steps forward.


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Related: 
2/7/19: DC Presidential Primary on the Move Again?

5/15/18:  Washington, DC Eases Back a Week on the Calendar


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The Washington, DC presidential primary bill has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pair of Bills Seek to Move Illinois Presidential Primary

Earlier this session, there were a couple of bills introduced in the Illinois state House to move the date on which the general primary election is held. The thing about tracking the movement of presidential primaries is that one has to adapt to the differences across states in terms of what each calls its presidential primary elections. In the case of Illinois, the state has traditionally held a third Tuesday in March primary that is not only the date for the presidential primary but those for other state and federal offices as well. It is a consolidated primary every even-numbered year.

And it should be additionally noted that the general primary in Illinois has only been on a date other than the third Tuesday in March in a presidential year once in the post-reform era. That was during the 2008 cycle when then-Illinois senator, Barack Obama, was seeking the Democratic nomination. Illinois, then, has been less likely to uproot its consolidated general primary election and shift it to an alternate date.

Moreover, that fact is also relevant when trying to handicap the likelihood of passage for any bill with the goal of moving the general primary away from that traditional third Tuesday in March date. Attempts after the 2011 move back the traditional March date have generally languished in committee and died at the end of legislative sessions. That was true of a push by one legislator to move the consolidated primary to June in both 2013 and 2015 and again in 2017. It was also true of a 2015 bill to move the primary into July as well. And it was true again of 2018 legislation that proposed a marginal move to the first Tuesday in April that also failed.

Now the 2019 session has brought two more bills once again promoting a change in the general primary date. One, HB 3476, represents a subtle change to the existing law. It would keep the primary in March and even keep it in the third week in March. The only change is to push the primary back from a Tuesday to the third Saturday in March. The other, HB 2531, is more in line with the repetitive 2013-2017 attempts to ease the primary into June. Although the 2019 version is by a different legislator -- this time a Republican rather than a Democrat -- and calls for a third Tuesday in June primary. While that is a week earlier than the bills from recent past sessions, it would still place the Illinois presidential primary just outside of the window in which states and territories are allowed by the national parties to hold primaries.

Neither 2019 bill has seen any significant action following February introductions. One can draw from that what one may, but if past is prelude to either effort, then they are unlikely to advance. And that means that Illinois is most likely to retain its traditional March date.


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The Illinois presidential primary bills have been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Monday, April 1, 2019

Utah Presidential Primary Shifts to Super Tuesday

On Wednesday, March 27, Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed SB 242 into law.

The bill reestablished and the law now explicitly schedules a presidential primary in the Beehive state for the first Tuesday in March during presidential election years. Utah will rejoin Super Tuesday for the first time since the 2008 cycle when the primary coincided with a de facto national primary day with over twenty contests in both parties.

Utah at this time becomes the thirteenth state to schedule a primary or caucus for Super Tuesday. Of the 13, Utah will have fewer delegates at stake in the Democratic process than ten of the Super Tuesday states or territories. Only Vermont and Democrats Abroad will offer fewer delegates on Super Tuesday. Typically, that has been a combination -- few delegates at stake on a date that offers many more delegate-rich states -- that has led to smaller states getting lost in the shuffle.

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The Utah presidential primary change will be reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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

3/14/19: Utah House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill


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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Alaska Democrats Plan on April 4 Party-Run Primary

On Saturday, March 30, the Alaska Democratic Party released for public comment the party's draft delegate selection plan for the 2020 cycle. And in it were details from yet another traditionally caucus state laying the groundwork for a party-run primary.

Yes, the caucuses will remain as the primary means through which delegates will be selected, but the allocation process will shift from hinging on the results of precinct caucuses to a party-run primary that will take place in at least nine locations across the state between 10am and 2pm on Saturday, April 4. No, a four hour voting window in just nine (to start) locations does not come across as adequate in a state as geographically large as Alaska, but Democrats in the Last Frontier have planned for that. In addition to the in-person voting on the April 4 primary day, Alaska Democrats will also have the option voting absentee by mail or electronically (in a system that remains undetermined). That window for alternate forms of voting will stretch from March 3 (Super Tuesday) through March 24.

Miscellany
  • The Alaska draft plan calls for a ranked choice system of voting, elements of which have appeared in other formerly caucus states (Hawaii, Iowa and Nevada). 
  • The Alaska primary will for the second cycle in a row coincide with the contest in Hawaii. Although both are positioned after the fourth Tuesday in March, the pair alone does not qualify for a regional cluster bonus (15 percent added to the base delegation). Four years ago when Washington state Democrats joined the pair, the collective trio qualified for that bonus. Unless another partner joins the effort -- Oregon comes to mind (but is unlikely) as do the Pacific territories -- then Alaska and Hawaii would fall short of a 15 percent clustering bonus, but would maintain a 10 percent timing bonus for the April date of their contests.
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Alaska now joins Hawaii and North Dakota as non-carve-out and traditionally caucus states that have moved in the direction of party-run primaries as means of allocating delegates. The only states that have attempted so far to maintain the traditional caucus set up as a part of the allocation process are Iowa and Nevada. And one can hypothesize that such a move is a clear enough nod to the New Hampshire primary that both states' contests bookend. The other caucus states have no similar conflict.


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The Alaska party-run primary date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


Related:
2/11/19: Iowa Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan for 2020

3/13/19: North Dakota Democrats Plan to Hold March 10 Firehouse Caucuses

3/21/19: Nevada Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan

3/26/19: Hawaii Democrats Aim for an April Party-Run Primary in Lieu of Caucuses


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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

FHQ has been following the release of delegate selection plans by state Democratic parties across the country since Idaho Democrats released their plan for public comment toward the end of January. In particular, FHQ has kept an eye on caucus states, not only for the dates on which those contests are tentatively scheduled for 2020, but for how they plan to respond to the new DNC rules pushing for increased participation in the format.

While Maine fits into that category as well -- traditional albeit not constant caucus state -- there is another set of attendant questions raised in the Pine Tree state: will there be a primary option and will Democrats there utilize it for delegate allocation? Following the release of the Maine Democratic Party draft delegate selection plan, the answer appears to be, "Caucuses, but we'll get back to you."

The plan, then, lays out a caucus/convention system through which delegates to the national convention will be selected and allocated. However, the plan acknowledges that there is legislation pending in the Maine legislature to reestablish a presidential primary. In fact, there are two bills: one to establish a March presidential primary similar to the one that was created in 2016 but expired in 2018 and another similar bill that would conduct a March primary under a ranked choice voting system. One thing that can be gleaned from the Maine Democratic Party draft plan is that the party seemingly prefers the latter. Moreover, the plan indicates that should the ranked choice presidential primary bill pass the legislature and be signed into law, then the party would utilize the primary over the caucuses (and submit a revised plan to the DNC later).

But until such time that Maine has a presidential primary codified in statute, Democrats will plan on conducting a caucus/convention system with precinct caucuses commencing on Sunday, March 8. That would put the Maine Democratic caucuses in line with the date of those conducted in 2016, the Sunday after Super Tuesday.

That is not the only aspect of the planned caucuses that would carry over from previous cycles. Unlike the other caucus states that have released draft delegate selection plans thus far in 2019, Maine Democrats are not laying the groundwork for any fundamental changes to the caucus process to promote increased participation. There are no virtual caucuses. There is no early voting. Instead, the party will, in the event that it conducts caucuses, rely on the same no-excuse absentee voting system the party has used since 2004 to allow those Democrats with conflicts with the caucuses' date and/or time to express their presidential preference.

One can read that at least a couple of different ways. First, the state party is comfortable with the past level of participation under an absentee system that has been tested over four presidential cycles. But second, while maintaining the status quo may indicate how confident the state party may be in the plan passing muster with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, it may also signal some confidence that the party is waiting on the state legislature to work through the particulars of a presidential primary option. [It could, of course, be both as well.] One thing is for certain: the Maine legislature will adjourn in mid-June, so an answer would come between now and then. Both primary bills have been shelved in committee awaiting a working hearing at which time the bills may be amended.

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One other aspect of the current draft plan from the Maine Democratic Party worth flagging is the proposed way of allocating delegates. The preference on that front appears to be for a truly proportional method with no threshold to qualify for delegates. In other words, candidates would not have to win up 15 percent or more of the vote statewide or in one of the two congressional districts to be allocated any delegates. If that gets rejected by the RBC and the party cannot win a waiver to allocate delegates in that way, then it will use the traditional 15 percent threshold to determine which candidates receive delegates and those who do not.

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The tentative caucus date for Maine has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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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

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary


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