Monday, July 22, 2019

Sequence Matters to Delegate Allocation and Winnowing

Another month has brought an updated glimpse of the state of play in the early states on the 2020 presidential primary calendar from CBSNews/YouGov Battleground Tracker. These monthly updates are like catnip to FHQ. They are fun and, broken down on the state level, give a bit of insight into how the delegate allocation rules in the Democratic Party presidential nomination process might work. It is instructive to scroll down to the New Hampshire results, for example, and see that Biden gets 27 percent support in the poll and that translates to three of the eight statewide (at-large and PLEO delegates) in the Granite state.

And while that aspect of the exercise is on some level helpful, the overall delegate allocation aggregation is less so. And look folks, those behind these monthly updates are up front about this being a snapshot. It is and that is just like the polling on which the delegate projections are based.

But in reality, the nomination process itself is not a snapshot. Invisible primary activity affects Iowa which affects New Hampshire which affects Nevada which affects South Carolina which affects Super Tuesday and so on. The process, then, is not a singular snapshot but a series of them interconnected with each other. By lumping the Super Tuesday and earlier states together like this and producing a hypothetical picture of the delegate allocation, the winnowing process gets smoothed over to a degree that does not match how the allocation and winnowing processes have tended to work during the post-reform era. And the sequence of the process is entirely lost.

And "winnowing process" is a loaded term. In real time -- in the context of primary and caucus voting -- those winnowing pressures manifest themselves in terms of money continuing to come in, prevailing media narratives developing, and on top of both of those, the changing perspectives of prospective primary and caucus voters.

One way to think about this is by looking at the poll results in the earliest three states (Nevada is excluded), but treating them as in a sequence. By doing that the possibility of quick February winnowing appears more likely. In fact, by coincidence, it looks natural.
Candidates with 1 percent or greater shown
Candidates qualifying for statewide delegates shown in the blue box
Coming out of Iowa, the talk would be about the four candidate race at the top, putting pressure on the other candidates to wrap it up. Whether those candidates do or do not drop out or the incentives for them to stay in are greater than in the past is easier said during the invisible primary than done when votes come in and the prospects for future votes exponentially decline. For candidates for whom it was Iowa or bust, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify staying in. If one was, say, Amy Klobuchar, then one could make the case for holding on until one's home state votes on Super Tuesday. But a finish like this would make the prospect of losing at home more likely and even less palatable.

In any event, candidates outside of the top four finishers in this hypothetical sequence after the caucuses would find it even more difficult to grab attention in the eight days between Iowa and New Hampshire. In other words, candidates may move on unwinnowed to New Hampshire, but at that point are merely zombie candidates unlikely to clear any delegate-qualifying threshold.


Candidates with 1 percent or greater shown
Candidates qualifying for statewide delegates shown in the blue box
As the sequence progresses to New Hampshire, it is worth noting that the rank ordering of the top candidates does not change. Yes, that has much to do with simultaneity of the polling, but also the influence of the national level surveys at this particular point in the 2020 invisible primary.

But also note that the number of candidates qualifying for delegates (at least statewide) has decreased. Harris might peel off a delegate or so in the district count, but those are not the sort of small victories on which presidential nomination survival is typically built. In the scenario where Harris has placed fourth in the first two contests and likely missed out on delegates in New Hampshire, South Carolina (or perhaps Nevada in reality) approaches must win territory for Harris.

Additionally, Biden winning the first two contests with Sanders and Warren respectively placing and showing in both cases with more combined support for Biden would be likely to trigger at least some "one should drop out and endorse the other" chatter ahead of the contests in Nevada and South Carolina. Again that winnowing pressure manifests itself in myriad ways.


Candidates with 1 percent or greater shown
Candidates qualifying for statewide delegates shown in the blue box
But if the results in the first two contests lead to results like those immediately above in South Carolina, then Harris would have lost her must-win contest, Warren would have fallen below the delegate qualification threshold, and Sanders would face a more than two-to-one deficit in the South Carolina delegate count, the most delegate-rich of the four carve-out states.

At that point, heading into Super Tuesday, the discussion is likely to lean toward Biden and the identity of the Biden alternative (likely a weakened Sanders). And that Biden-or-not question lodged in the backs of voters' minds is the very essence of the winnowing process. The field can and often does quickly boil down to two viable options regardless of the decisions made in campaigns that are falling behind. Again, candidates can move forward in the hopes of winning delegates in the much more delegate-rich fields of Super Tuesday, but that hope hinges on actually winning votes, votes that are harder to come by once the focus has shifted to the candidates who are viable.

In summation, what delegate allocation aggregations of this sort from CBSNews/YouGov do is build up the idea that more candidates are going to receive more delegates than they are likely to in reality (or have been likely to in past cycles). And the natural extension of that is that delegates splitting in this manner is likely to lead the process in one particular direction: a contested convention. But the polling results in the earliest three states (Nevada is excluded) actually do point to a natural sort of winnowing occurring prior to Super Tuesday. But again, those a snapshots in time -- simultaneous rather than conditional snapshots -- that are going to change to some extent as the invisible primary campaign continues.


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Friday, July 19, 2019

Earlier June Presidential Primary Move Inches Forward in DC

The District Council in Washington, DC returned to work on B23-0212 this week for the first time since a committee hearing at the end of April.

But just because the bill to shift the presidential primary in the nation's capital up a two weeks to the first Tuesday in June has lain fallow since spring does not mean that the effort to move the primary has been on the back burner. And that is more a function of the legislative process in the District than it is neglect by the council.

An emergency bill of the same intent passed earlier in the spring, was signed by Mayor Bowser, and passed congressional review to enact the move for just 90 days. A temporary measure in a similar vein was also passed the council, was signed by the mayor and is under congressional review to stretch that 90 enactment to 225 days. Neither window pushes far enough into the future to encompass the proposed date of the presidential primary, so a permanent solution is warranted.

And that is why the council has shifted its focus back to B23-0212: to make the change to the first Tuesday in June permanent in presidential election years.

But why go to the trouble of the two intermediary temporary acts? In this context, it is to signal that the primary date change is coming but has to navigate the lengthy DC legislative process first. The same basic path was followed in 2017 effort to push back the date of the primary from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June.

In other words, the Washington, DC presidential primary will fall on June 2 in 2020, but there is a bit of a wait in getting to that point based on how a bill becomes a law under the DC charter.


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Related: 
5/6/19: Committee Hearing Finds Both DC Parties in Favor of a Presidential Primary Move

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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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ohio Budget Bill with Presidential Primary Move Passes the Legislature

On Wednesday, July 17, both chambers of the Ohio legislature adopted a conference committee report for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget. The vote in the state Senate saw just one dissenting vote while the House vote was marginally more divided. Of the 17 nay votes in the House, 14 were Democrats.

One item tucked into the 2600 page bill that likely did not drive much controversy was the provision to shift back the date of the Ohio presidential primary a week on the primary calendar. Should HB 166 be signed into law -- and it is a carefully negotiated budget bill, so approval is likely -- then the Ohio primary would fall on the third Tuesday after the first Monday in March rather than the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March as was the case in 2016.

And the reason for the change is exactly what it was four years ago when the Ohio legislature pushed the primary back a week from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March: it preserves the ability for the Ohio Republican Party to allocate the delegates in its primary on a winner-take-all basis. While the second Tuesday after the first Monday date worked for that purpose in 2016, it will not in 2020. It worked in 2016 because the first Tuesday in the month fell on March 1. With the month of March not beginning on a Tuesday 2020, it meant the primary would be slightly earlier in 2020, before the end of the proportionality window.

That triggered the primary move amendment added to the budget bill in late June. And this move should keep Ohio Republicans on the winner-take-all side of March 15 moving forward. The 2024 primary would fall on March 19, where Ohio Republicans would remain eligible for a winner-take-all allocation process (unless the Republican National Committee opts to change the parameters of the proportionality window after 2020).

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UPDATE: Governor DeWine (R) signed HB 166 into law on July 18, 2019.


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Related:
2/27/19: Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May

7/9/19: Ohio Republicans Chart Subtle Calendar Move to Preserve Winner-Take-All Allocation



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Monday, July 15, 2019

Wyoming Democrats Will Caucus on April 4

In a break from the plan released for public comment earlier in the year, the Wyoming Democratic Party will not caucus in March. Rather, according to the modestly revised draft of the state party's delegate selection plan, Democrats in the Equality state will caucus on April 4.

The specific date was set during the late April meeting of the Wyoming Democratic Party state central committee meeting. Not only does this timing make the delegation eligible for a 10 percent increase to the base number of delegates (one additional delegate), but it also aligns the Wyoming Democratic caucuses with contests in Alaska, Hawaii and Louisiana. Together, those contests alongside the Wisconsin primary the following Tuesday provide a smattering of delegate selection events in an otherwise quiet area on the calendar after the Georgia primary on March 24 and before the Acela primary (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, likely New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island primaries) on April 28. Those contests sit squarely in the section of the calendar where presumptive nominees typically emerge (not necessarily in terms of the timing, but instead based on the number of delegates allocated by that point).

Unlike a few one congressional district states, Wyoming does not split up its delegation for the purposes of allocation. All 13 pledged delegates will be allocated as one pool of delegates. Candidates receiving 15 percent or more of the caucus vote statewide will be eligible for delegates.



The Wyoming Democratic caucuses date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Friday, July 12, 2019

Puerto Rico Bill Moving Presidential Primary to March Cleared Both Houses of the Legislature

Legislation has advanced through both houses of the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly to move the Democratic presidential primary in the island territory to the last Tuesday in March.

Rather than use a previous primary bill as a vehicle for the date change, a new bill -- S 1323 -- was introduced in the Senate in mid-June and made its through both houses on party line votes in less than a week.

Again, the intent of the bill is to move the Democratic presidential primary from the first Sunday in June to the last Sunday in March. On the surface, that looks like an attempt to align the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, a practice that has not been typical. The Compulsory Presidential Primaries Act (CPPA) has since 2003 defined the primary date for the Republican Party on the island as the last Sunday in March and the Democratic primary for the first Sunday in June.

However, that apparent alignment does not necessarily mean the two primaries will occur simultaneously in 2020. And the reason for that is that while Puerto Rico Democrats have traditionally used the statute cited above as defining the date of the presidential primary, the Puerto Rico Republican Party has not. Instead, the GOP in the territory has used another statute as guidance for when the party presidential primary will occur on the calendar. Since 2014 that law has given both parties on the island broad discretion in setting the date of their primaries, defining a window from the first Tuesday in February through June 15. That is why the Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico was the Sunday after Super Tuesday in 2016 and not later in March as would be the case under the CPPA.

That may at least partially explain why Republicans in the legislative assembly voted against the changes called for in S 1323. Those changes were not viewed by Republicans as necessary because another statute already allows the Democrats in Puerto Rico to make the change. An alternative route could have been to square the discrepancies across both statutes.

It is expected that Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló will sign the bill once the legislative assembly sends it to him.


The Puerto Rico presidential primary bill has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Virgin Islands Democratic Caucuses Slated for June

Democrats in the Virgin Islands retained the party's first Saturday in June date for its 2020 caucuses in the June 2019 release of their draft 2020 delegate selection plan. And if all other active legislation around the country is passed and enacted, that will make the June 6 caucuses in the Caribbean territory the final contest on the 2020 presidential primary calendar.1

The Virgin Islands Democratic delegation will have 13 delegates in total: six automatic delegates -- the territorial governor, delegate to Congress, party chair, vice chair, national committeeman and national committeewoman -- and seven at-large delegates. It is that latter group that is most noteworthy. Rather than being allocated territory-wide as is the case in the American Samoa Democratic caucuses, the seven at-large delegates will be divvied up between intra-territory districts. The St. Croix district is apportioned four of the seven at-large delegates and the St. Thomas/St. John district the remaining three. Instead of the entire pool of delegates being allocated to candidates with 15 percent or more of the vote based on the territory-wide results, there will be two separate allocations based on the two district results.

Splitting the allocation of such a small pool of delegates into subgroups makes it harder for candidates further down in the results to receive any delegates. For instance, hitting 15 percent in the St. Thomas/St. John district would net a candidate 0.45 delegates. Technically, that is not enough to round up depending on the actual results. Absent specific results, then, the threshold to guarantee delegates up front is 16.67 percent in that district. This serves as a cautionary note about the overall allocation process. Allocating large pools of delegates is more forgiving in the rounding process, but the more refined that gets -- the more subgroups of delegates created -- the more problematic it becomes for candidates further down in the results.

Of course, this may all be moot if the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process has resolved itself by June 6. The presumptive nominee would likely claim all or the vast majority of those delegates. However, if the contest remains active heading into the final contest, then the delegate math (and the subtle intricacies therein) may be of some consequence. Then again, a share seven delegates is not all that likely to make or break anyone at the end of the calendar. But it would be something if it was.

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1 This entails legislation in Washington, DC being passed, moving the primary in the district to the first Tuesday in June. The Virgin Islands caucuses would fall just four days later on the calendar.


The Virgin Islands Democratic caucuses date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

American Samoa Democrats Again Aim for Super Tuesday Caucuses

The American Samoa Democratic Party on July 3 released for public comment a draft 2020 delegate selection plan.

Much of the 2016 process has been carried over to 2020. There will again be ten delegates in the American Samoa delegation: six at-large delegates and four automatic delegates (DNC members). It will be those six delegates that will be allocated based on the results of the territorial caucuses. Those caucuses will fall on Super Tuesday again (March 3, the first Tuesday in March).

Candidates receiving more than 15 percent of the vote territory-wide will be eligible to be allocated a proportional share of the six at-large delegates.

The plan treats the four members of the American Samoa Democratic Party Executive Committee -- the party chair, vice chair, national committeeman and national committeewoman -- as pledged party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates, but only if they opt to run and be elected/selected for those positions; something new in the Democratic delegate selection rules for the 2020 cycle. Additionally, there is no specific plan outlined for pledging those delegates to candidates based on the results of the caucuses. The assumption then, it seems, is that those four DNC members from the territory will remain automatic and unpledged (and ineligible for participation on the first ballot if no one candidate receives a majority of all delegates including the automatic delegates).

The American Samoa Democratic caucuses now become the sixteenth contest on Super Tuesday 2020.


The American Samoa Democratic caucuses date has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Ohio Republicans Chart Subtle Calendar Move to Preserve Winner-Take-All Allocation

The Ohio Republican Party was going to have to make a change to its delegate allocation rules for 2020 anyway. The question has always been which route the party would take.

The easy way? Merely changing the reference to 2016 in the rules passed in 2015 to 2020.

Or the harder way? Actually changing the winner-take-all formula for allocating delegates to something matching the Republican National Committee definition of proportional because the date of the Ohio presidential primary for 2020 (March 10) falls in the proportionality window in the RNC rules.

Republicans in the Ohio legislature assisted last week in providing an answer by inserting language into the fiscal year 2020-21 budget bill (HB 166) to shift back the date of the Ohio presidential primary. The change would push the primary from the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the third Tuesday after the first Monday in March and out of the proportionality window.

While that would move the Ohio primary from a date with one regional partner on March 10 (Michigan) to another date with another regional partner on March 17 (Illinois), the new primary date in the Buckeye state would also coincide with St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the states, something at which legislative Democrats balked according to the Dayton Daily News. Rep. Jack Cera (D-96th, Bellaire), who has his own primary move bill before the legislature chimed in.
“We don’t like the election day on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m 24 percent Irish. It’s a holiday…Cleveland has a big St. Patrick’s Day party so some people are concerned.”
But just as was the case with Cera's bill to move the primary to early May, his and other Democrats' concerns may fall on deaf ears. Republicans have unified control of the Ohio legislature and control the governor's mansion as well.

That said, there is a date just a week later on March 24 that was vacant until just a few weeks ago when Georgia settled on a primary date. Whether that date with less of a crowd is inviting enough to legislative Republicans in a virtually non-competitive nomination environment for President Trump remains to be seen. The date change in HB 166 is permanent, so Republicans in the Ohio legislature may be more interested in ensuring that they are always on the winner-take-all side of the proportionality window than in advantageously positioning for future cycles.


The new Ohio presidential primary bill has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Related:
2/27/19: Ohio Bill Would Move Buckeye State Presidential Primary to May


7/18/19: Ohio Budget Bill with Presidential Primary Move Passes the Legislature


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Friday, June 21, 2019

Raffensperger Sets Georgia Presidential Primary Date for March 24

On Wednesday, June 19, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) set the date of the 2020 presidential primary in the Peach state for March 24.

It marks just the second time since the 1980 cycle that Georgia has not held a presidential primary on the earliest date allowed by the national parties to hold primaries and caucuses. [2004 was the other.]

But while that departure from what has more often than not been the Georgia primary's traditional position on the calendar is noteworthy, some of the maneuvering behind the scenes of the presidential primary date being set is as well.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Raffensperger earlier this week suggested that a final decision on the primary date would not be made until after new voting machines for the state had been purchased. But this continued delay has drawn the ire of some local elections officials across Georgia who wanted more certainty about when the presidential primary would be scheduled.

And that is not out of the ordinary for elections officials. They crave certainty and as far in advance of an election as possible.

However, what is interesting about this is that the Georgia presidential primary dates for both 2012 and 2016 were not set by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) until September in the years before both election years. Granted, Kemp telegraphed the date of the 2016 primary as early as 2014 when he began the push to coordinate the SEC primary, a cluster of southern state primaries on the first Tuesday in March. But the 2012 Georgia primary date was not set until the very end of September. And there was speculation even the week leading up to that decision in September 2011 about when the primary would be scheduled.

But there was no reported backlash from elected officials in either cycle (but especially 2011).

One might counter that the added uncertainty of the new voting machines may be driving this response from local elections administrators. Yet, in the quotes gathered from elections administrators by the AJC, it was not the machines that were cited as the complicating factor. Instead, reserving polling locations, potential complications with early/absentee voting, and ballot printing schedules were cited as the reasons for the response to the lack of a presidential primary date.

At least Raffensperger did not wait until the statutory deadline to set the date: December 1.

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Why March 24?
Again, a late March date for the Georgia primary is unusual. Even in 2004, when last Georgia did not have a primary on the earliest date allowed by the national parties, the primary fell on the first Tuesday in March. The earliest allowed date that cycle was the first Tuesday in February. Georgia just did not move up into February with a handful of smaller states. That (move to February) did not happen until 2008 when, like the 2020 cycle, a lot of states were crowding onto the earliest date allowed.

March 24, then, is the latest a Georgia presidential primary has fallen on the calendar since the 1976 cycle that saw Georgian, Jimmy Carter, win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Why break from the norm?

Well, the AJC cites one reason: to maximize the influence. Historically, that has been the reasoning that led to a great deal of frontloading on the presidential primary calendar. As calendars became more crowded over time during the post-reform era, states continued to pile on to typically the earliest allowed date. But the calculus -- or perhaps the perception -- was different then. Maximizing influence meant holding a contest at a time on the calendar before the nomination race had resolved itself. And most states that opted to move reasoned that contests as early as possible guaranteed that influence. Even if it meant sharing a date on the calendar with 10 or 15 or 25 other states.

Better to share an early calendar spot and have some (diluted) influence than gamble with a later more isolated date that may fall after a presumptive nominee has emerged and have no influence.

But if the perception is that the nomination race may carry on a bit, then the date-setting calculus changes. Early dates continue to offer that same guarantee of some influence, but the gamble of a later date may not be as great.

Moreover, the 2011 change to Georgia law is an important piece to this puzzle. It was then that the Georgia legislature got out of the business of setting the presidential primary date and ceded that authority to the secretary of state. The biggest impact there was the timing of the decision. Whereas the Georgia General Assembly only had a window between January and early May of the year before a presidential election to make a decision on the primary date, the new law gave the secretary of state until December 1 of the year prior to the presidential election.

That January-May window can be a busy one not just internally for all the business of a state legislature, but externally for all the primary movement -- proposed or fully realized -- happening in state legislatures across the country. In other words, Georgia was always at a disadvantage because of its early legislative adjournment date. Georgia could move its primary only to see other states choose to join it on an early date, diluting the Peach state's influence on that date.

Allowing the secretary of state to make the date-setting decision and giving that office until December 1 to do that flips the tables in Georgia's favor. Now, instead of changing dates only to find later that it gets crowded, the Georgia secretary of state can wait, assess the state of any upcoming nomination race (particularly its potential longevity) and pick a position that most benefits the state.

So if it looks like a race with a large field of candidates may not winnow down to one before an open week fairly early in the calendar, then why not opt for that date? Well, that is exactly what Raffensperger has done. March 24 has been wide open on the calendar for a while now and at this late date is unlikely to see any other states reschedule for that date.

It is not a guarantee of influence, but if the nomination race continues to that point, then it could mean a great deal of influence.

Finally, there is one other factor that may have played a role in this decision other than the open date Georgia has seemingly secured for itself alone. It is something that FHQ mentioned back in January in a post about Republican state party rules changes for 2020 to help Trump:
If a state is viewed now as a strong Trump state in the nomination phase of the process, then why not move it to a point on the calendar where the number of Trump delegates could be maximized? Take Georgia. Traditionally the Peach state has been a Super Tuesday mainstay. And it may still be in 2020. However, the newly elected Republican secretary of state there may hear from the Trump campaign. So might the Georgia Republican Party. The former could set the date of the Georgia primary for some point after March 15 and that would allow the latter to set the allocation method for winner-take-all (without penalty).
Yes, the Democratic Party has the active nomination race, but that does not mean that there is not maneuvering on the Republican side. And Secretary Raffensperger is a Republican who may or may not be making this move to help Democrats in the state. He may instead be choosing a primary date that maximizes Georgia's influence on the Republican process, handing the president a guaranteed cache of delegates that may help the president secure the nomination more quickly through winner-take-all delegate allocation rules.

But that is a question for the Georgia Republican Party. It will have to make that decision before October 1.


The Georgia presidential primary date change has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.



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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Louisiana Presidential Primary Moves to April on Bel Edwards' Signature

Governor John Bel Edwards (D) on Thursday, June 20 signed into law the omnibus elections code bill -- HB 563 -- that has been working its way through the Louisiana legislature this spring.

Among other things, the legislation pushes back the presidential primary from the first Saturday in March to the first Saturday in April. And that change has less to do with the presidential primary than the municipal and ward elections that are consolidated with it. The calendar of holidays dictated a change of the municipal primaries in order not to conflict with those holidays in spring 2020.

Louisiana now joins Democratic contests in Alaska and Hawaii on the same April 4 date, a position on the calendar more sparsely populated than the slot just after Super Tuesday and just before the second most delegate-rich date on the calendar on March 10.


The Louisiana presidential primary date change has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Related:
6/5/19: April Presidential Primary Bill Has Passed the Legislative Stage in Louisiana


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Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday

A day after LD 1626 cleared its last legislative hurdle on the final day of the 2019 Maine state legislative session, Governor Janet Mills (D) signed the bill to reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state.

The primary is scheduled for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March which aligns the new Maine presidential primary with at least 14 other states and territories on Super Tuesday. The move does not represent a huge shift with respect to the date of the contest. It shifts from the Sunday after Super Tuesday to Super Tuesday itself. But the caucus to primary change is in line with a number of other states that have added the option for the 2020 cycle (Colorado, Minnesota and Utah). The new or newly reestablished primaries in all four states will fall on Super Tuesday.

Under the new law, state parties have some discretion in a couple of important areas for how the delegate selection process will operate in the state. By November 1, the state parties have to inform the secretary of state whether they will opt into the primary election. Maine Democrats in their draft delegate selection plan have already indicated that if a presidential primary is established, then their plan will be reworked. It remains to be seen whether state Republicans will opt in. However, it was telling that with only a few exception, state legislative Republicans were against the reestablishment of a presidential primary election.

For those state parties that do opt in to utilizing the presidential primary as the means of allocating national convention delegates there is an additional deadline. State parties will have until December 1 to decide which voters can participate in the party's primary. Failure to notify the secretary of state by that date means that only voters enrolled in the party can participate in the primary. In other words, it would be closed.


The Maine presidential primary and date changes will be 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...

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

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day


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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

Wednesday, June 19 represents the statutorily mandated end of the 2019 legislative session in Maine. And among the unfinished or unresolved business of the body are two bills reestablishing a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state.

LD 1626 would reestablish the presidential primary and schedule it for Super Tuesday, the first Tuesday in March. And while that bill passed the Senate (on June 3) and was both passed (on June 4) and enacted (on June 5) by the House, there is another step to the legislative process in Maine. Any bills that affect revenues or expenditures by the state government -- as the presidential primary bill would -- are placed on the Special Appropriations Table in the state Senate at the request of a member of the Appropriations Committee. In this case, Sen. Linda Sanborn (D, 30th, Gorham) made that request and the bill has sat on the table since June 6. Generally, those bills that affect the Maine general fund are kept on the table until after the budget bill has been negotiated, passed, signed and enacted. That budget bill, LD 1001, became law on the Governor Mills' signature on Monday, June 17.

Tuesday passed with no action on the Super Tuesday bill, but it may see the light of day again in a final flurry of activity as the session draws closer to adjournment.

Meanwhile, the ranked choice voting presidential primary bill that was tabled in committee back at the beginning of May was resurrected on June 4. That work session of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee produced another divided report with committee Republicans against and Democrats split on how to proceed. The minority report amendment stripped out the presidential primary language from the original LD 1083 but continued to call for the ranked choice voting election of presidential electors in the general election but that that action should be put before the voters in a referendum.

But that report was left on the sidelines when the bill came up on the floor of the state Senate on Tuesday, June 18. Instead, the Senate brought up the majority report amendment, an amendment that further muddles the treatment of any presidential primary. Like the minority report amendment, the amendment that was brought up struck the entirety of the original bill including the provisions describing the proposed presidential primary system. Importantly, the second Tuesday in March date on which any reestablish presidential primary would be scheduled was nixed.

In its place in the amended version the Senate considered was the reestablishment of a presidential primary, but only to an extent. Under the new guidelines that were passed 20-14 on a party line vote similar to LD 1626 was a certain deference to the political parties in Maine. There can be a presidential primary, but it must be in "accordance with any reasonable procedures established at the state party convention." The state party convention part is a bit misleading. Essentially the bill under this language is deferring to the state parties on the details of any presidential primary, date included. What is left at least a little ambiguous if not unsaid, is that the fiscal note accompanying the bill concludes there is no fiscal impact on the state government. That suggests that the funding of any presidential primary may be left up to municipalities and/or the state parties. Those two entities have typically borne the costs of caucuses in Maine. If that is intended as a reestablishment of a presidential primary in Maine, then it is presidential primary light, bordering on a party-run process, but one that calls for a ranked choice process.

And incidentally, the Maine Democratic Party draft delegate selection plan calls for caucuses (but with the caveat that primary legislation is active in the legislature).

Alternatively, rather than treating both bills separately, one could look at them in tandem. LD 1626 establishes the details of the primary -- including the date and the state expenditure from the general fund -- while LD 1083 merely layers on top of that the ranked choice element if state parties opt into the contest.

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UPDATE (1:20pm, 6/19/19): The Senate took LD 1626 off the Special Appropriations Table and voted to concur and enact the legislation, clearing the way for the Super Tuesday primary bill to head to Governor Mills. The House has also passed LD 1083, the ranked choice voting bill largely along party lines, 86-59 with Democrats in favor. But like LD 1626, that is not the last act. The House still has to vote to enact the legislation before sending it back to the Senate for its consideration of enactment. Should those bars be cleared, the both bills would head to the governor's desk.

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UPDATE (3:30pm, 6/19/19): The House has voted to enact LD 1083. The last step is for the state Senate to concur with that and LD 1083 will head to Governor Mills' desk along with LD 1626.

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UPDATE (7:30am, 6/20/19): The Maine legislative session adjourned around 6:30am, failing to pass LD 1083 through the enactment stage in the state Senate. The net effect is that Maine will have a presidential primary option if LD 1626 is signed into law by Governor Mills, but it will not occur under ranked choice voting rules because LD 1083 remained tabled in the Senate. The latter will be held over into 2020 (or into any special session called in 2019).


--
Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing along information on LD 1083's passage.


--
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

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

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday


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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

New York Assembly Passes April Presidential Primary Bill

The New York Assembly on Tuesday, June 18 had on its calendar the Assembly version (A8176) of a bill to set the presidential primary date in the Empire state for April 28, 2020. But rather than take up its own identical version, the chamber did what it has done over the course of at least the previous three cycles: substituted a state Senate-passed version (again, the identical S6374) and subsequently nearly unanimously passed it, 86-6.

The maneuver streamlines the legislative process as the January to June session winds down in Albany. It also clears the way for the measure to go to Governor Cuomo for his consideration. Given that the bill was noncontroversial, it should be expected to be signed.

The shift, technically from the February default date, would move the New York presidential primary back one week relative to the date of the 2016 primary in the state. It would realign New York with primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, a 2012 regional primary cluster that was joined by Maryland for 2016.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

New York April Presidential Primary Bills Outline 2020 Delegate Selection in the Empire State

Although New York Democrats signaled in the April release of the state party draft delegate selection plan that April 28, 2020 would be the date of the presidential primary in the Empire state, that only passed the baton off to one other crucial actor in the process: the state legislature.

The New York process is a unique one with respect to how the rules of the presidential nomination come together. In some states there can be tension between the legislature and state parties, breaking down the lines of communications between the actors on what the preferred rules are for the state's delegate selection process. And obviously part of that tension is partisan in the case of a legislature controlled by one party making decisions that state party on the other side the partisan divide would otherwise not desire. Republicans in Washington state during the 2012 cycle, for example, mostly opposed the efforts to cancel the presidential primary in Evergreen state. Yet, majority Democrats passed legislation (against a split Republican minority) and a Democratic governor signed the bill into law. That forced Washington Republicans to utilize a caucus rather than primary in that cycle.

But in New York over the last several cycles the legislature and the parties have developed a bit of a routine. The 2008 cycle saw the state join the logjam on the February 5 Super Tuesday and after that point the presidential primary -- or spring primary as it is referred to in statute -- has stayed on or defaulted to that first Tuesday in February date. February has been off limits to states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina following 2008 under national party rules, and although New York has remained compliant, the calendar movement has only been temporary. For 2012, the New York legislature shifted the February primary back to late April to join a mid-Atlantic/northeastern regional primary, but at the end of 2012, the date reverted to February. The same sequence repeated itself during and after the 2016 cycle. Again, the legislature pushed the February primary back to April (however, one week earlier than in 2012), only to include a sunset provision that expired at the end of 2016.

That constant revisitation of the primary date forces the legislature to examine New York's spot on the calendar every four years. And while that is technically true, the effect is only indirect. The main purpose of the review is so that legislators can consult with the state board of elections and the state parties on delegate selection for the upcoming cycle. And that consultation with state parties is mostly about ensuring that the actions -- its legislative output -- of the legislature are consistent with national party rules.

Basically, the legislature defers to the parties, and then, toward the end of its legislative session in the year prior to a presidential election introduces legislation that reflects the delegate selection processes laid out by the two state parties. That includes the date of the contest, but also a number of other important aspects of the delegate selection processes for each party.

With the clock ticking down to the end of the legislative year in the Empire state, legislation on the 2020 presidential primary became more and more likely and was introduced this past week. Both the Senate (S 6374) and Assembly (A 8176) versions are identical. Unsurprisingly, the bills call for an April 28 primary, aligning the presidential primary in New York with similar contests in a would-be contiguous group of six states including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. That places that Acela primary in a position on the calendar that has been if not decisive in recent cycles, then influential to the ultimate resolution of nomination races.

One aspect that may make New York even more influential on the Republican side is that the GOP in the Empire state has returned to a winner-take-all delegate allocation formula for the first time since the 2008 cycle. The state Republican Party had adopted more proportional rules in both 2012 and 2016. That is the headline grabbing change that fits within a broader narrative of Republican state parties maneuvering to make their delegate selection rules more advantageous to President Trump during his renomination/reelection cycle.

In another change relative to the 2016 Republican process in New York, candidates and their campaigns will be responsible for slating congressional district delegates rather than congressional district committees making those decisions. At-large delegates will continue to be chosen by the state central committee.

On the Democratic side of the equation, the devil is in the details. New York is and always has been a state that demands a lot of campaigns seeking ballot access there. And that is less in terms of the number of signatures required, and more in terms of the organizational mettle required. There are intricacies that serve to separate the best and worst organized campaigns. For example, the petition requirements for a candidate to get on the ballot in New York are 5000 signatures of "then enrolled" voters. But New York is also among the states where delegate candidates are also up for election on the same presidential primary ballot. And congressional district delegate candidates have to have 500 signatures from voters who enrolled as Democrats on or before February 1, 2019. That is a subtle difference, but one that could trip up less organized campaigns attempting to line up a slate of delegates. They would not be able to rely on newly registered voters for those signatures, but rather, voters longer established as Democrats. Given the proposed date of the primary, however, the filing deadline is a little later. Campaigns would have a bit more time before the mid-February filing deadline to square everything away. And by that point, the field is likely to have winnowed some anyway.

But the big take away from the introduction of these bills is just that: the legislature part of this process -- the end point -- is now in motion.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

New Arizona Budget Contains a Presidential Primary Opt-Out for State Parties

The scaling back from primaries to caucuses to help the incumbent beat has been quiet for a while now. Such is the nature of the decentralized way in which the process to nominate presidential candidates develops in the year before a presidential election year.

As quiet as things have been on that front, however, Arizona quietly broke the silence last week when  Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed HB 2751 into law. Normally, the way state budgets intervene in the presidential nomination process is through the funding (or lack thereof) of state government-run primaries. But this budget bill in Arizona does not clearly draw that line. Democrats will have a primary next year, so the state will be paying for an election for that. Presumably however, that election will not include a Republican presidential preference vote.

And that is because at the request of the Arizona Republican Party, Speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers (R-25th, Maricopa) inserted the following section into the budget legislation for the session:
Notwithstanding section 16-241, Arizona Revised Statutes, a political party that is eligible to participate in the 2020 presidential preference election pursuant to section 16-244, Arizona Revised Statutes, may opt out of participating in the presidential preference election by sending a written notice to the secretary of state on or before September 16, 2019. If a political party opts out of participating in the presidential preference election, the secretary of state shall notify each county recorder and officer in charge of elections and the clerk of each county board of supervisors not later than five business days after receiving the written notice from the political party that the 2020 presidential preference election for that party is canceled.
The highlighted clause now gives state Republicans the discretion to repeat what the party did the last time an incumbent Republican presidential was up for reelection in 2004: cancel the Republican presidential primary in the Grand Canyon state. This is not something, then, that is unique to the broader Republican Party defense of President Trump. Instead, it is in line with what other states -- Kansas and South Carolina among them -- are doing and have done in the the past: scale operations back when an incumbent is up for reelection.

Arizona Republicans now have until the middle of September to make a decision about whether they will opt out of the presidential primary, although the party has already telegraphed where this is headed. September is noteworthy because that is just before the Republican National Committee deadline to finalize state-level delegate selection processes falls (October 1). That will be a busy time as many states will be finalizing plans either at state conventions or in state central committee meetings.

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Footnote: 
Howard Fischer's Capital News Service story quotes Arizona Republican Party spokesman, Zach Henry, as citing past presidential primary opt outs. Henry is right that Arizona Republicans opted out of the 2004 presidential primary election. However, Henry also cites state Democrats as having acted in the same way during incumbent Democratic presidential reelection cycles in 1996 and 2012. Opting out is a misleading way of describing Arizona Democratic Party activity during those two cycles, however. In both cycles, Arizona had a last Tuesday in February presidential primary, a date non-compliant with Democratic National Committee rules in both instances. Arizona Democrats did not opt out of the presidential primaries in those cycles as they were forced to opt for later caucuses to avoid penalty from the national party.

Arizona Republicans in 2004 faced no such conflict. Although the Arizona presidential primary was set by Governor Janet Napolitano (D) for the first Tuesday in February, that was not inconsistent with Republican National Committee rules at the time. In fact, 2004 was the first cycle in which February primaries for states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina were allowed by both parties. That allowance lasted through the 2008 cycle.

The parties' actions in these instances is different.


--
Thanks to Steve Kamp for passing along news of the Arizona opt-out provision to FHQ.



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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

April Presidential Primary Bill Has Passed the Legislative Stage in Louisiana

Last week the Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee passed an amendment to HB 563, a bill focused on revising some technical aspects of the Louisiana Elections Code. The newly adopted amendment proposes shifting the presidential primary in the Pelican state from the first Saturday in March to the first Saturday in April.

On the surface, this may look like a maneuver on the part of Louisiana Republicans in the legislature to shift back to a later date and move to a more winner-take-all formula for allocating delegates. But it is more complicated than that.

The Louisiana presidential preference primary is tethered to municipal and ward primary elections as well. While the presidential preference primary is a one-off election on the first Saturday in March, those municipal and ward primaries are typical of primaries in the Pelican state. They are often precursors to runoff (general) elections five weeks later. Five weeks later than the first Saturday in March is the second Saturday in April. And in 2020, the second Saturday in April falls within three days of one of the enumerated holidays -- Good Friday, in this case -- in Louisiana code. Elections under the same statutes cannot fall within three days of one of those holidays.

The legislative solution to this holiday-triggered scheduling conundrum initially was to move everything up a week earlier, placing the presidential preference primary (and the other primaries as well) on the last Saturday in February.

Well, to regular readers of FHQ, that should send up red flags. Any presidential primary or caucus held before the first Tuesday in March in either party makes the violating state party vulnerable to a reduction of national convention delegates.

The February date never appeared in the bill, but was something worked outside of the legislature by both major state parties and the governor before the conflict (possible rules violation) was raised. That prompted coordination by the same parties on an alternative date. And the one initial date that allowed for a five week window -- from primary to general election for those municipal offices -- was the first Saturday in April.

That amendment was adopted by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, May 29. The state Senate passed the amended version 37-1 on Sunday June 2 and the state House concurred with the changes 96-2 on Monday, June 3. The near-unanimity speaks to the coordination across parties in and out of the legislature on the date change.

HB 563 now heads to Governor John Bel Edwards (D) for his consideration. And since he was involved in the prior discussions, the expectation should be that he will sign the bill.

The move would align the Louisiana presidential primary with the party-run Democratic primaries in Alaska and Hawaii on the same date, Saturday, April 4. As 2020 calendar spots go, it is not a bad spot. Yes, it follows the March rush of contests. But it falls at a point on the calendar where there is not a whole lot of competition -- the Wisconsin primary is the following Tuesday -- and any remaining candidates would have incentive to trek down and pop in on Pelican state primary voters. The drawback is that Louisiana would be the last of the southern states to hold a contest. But the benefit, on the Democratic side in any event, is that Louisiana's primary electorate is predominantly African American. That could come into play in a significant way potentially regardless of who remains in the race for the Democratic nomination at that juncture.


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The Louisiana bill has been added to the FHQ 2020 Presidential primary calendar.

--
Hat tip to Andrew Tuozzolo for passing news of the Louisiana shift to FHQ.



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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

The Maine state House on Tuesday, June 4 made quick work of the amended bill the state Senate passed the day before to reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state.

By an 88-53 vote, the state House passed LD 1626, creating anew a presidential primary in Maine for the first time since the 2000 cycle. The mostly party line vote -- there was one defection on each side -- saw majority Democrats in favor of the measure and minority Republicans in opposition.

Regardless, state House passage now clears the way for the bill to go before Governor Janet Mills (D) for her consideration. The bill would shift Maine from it place among the remaining handful of caucus states into the primary column alongside other caucus-turned-primary states like Colorado and Minnesota. It would also schedule the newly reestablished presidential primary in Maine on Super Tuesday, aligned with Colorado and Minnesota (among others) as well. In its amended form, the measure would also grant state parties in Maine the ability to opt to include unaffiliated voters in the presidential primary, a break from the Maine tradition of closed primaries.

Governor Mills now has ten days (not counting Sundays) to act on the bill.


UPDATE: Please see a discussion of the additional legislative hurdle that stood in the way of this bill going to the governor here. 


--
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

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

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday


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Monday, June 3, 2019

Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

A May 10 committee hearing left the fate of at least two presidential primary bills in limbo.

The first (LD 1083) would reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state for the first time since 2000 and schedule it for the second Tuesday in March under a ranked choice voting system. That bill was tabled by the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee and may well be dead for the 2019 session. Unless the committee takes it back up, then it will die there.

However, the second bill -- the one that would reestablish the presidential primary and schedule it for the first Tuesday in March, Super Tuesday (LD 1626) -- has gained new life after a split decision in the same May 10 working session. That even split between the mainly Republicans on the committee against the move to reestablish a presidential primary and the Democrats for the change meant that two reports were to have emerged from committee for the full chambers to potentially consider. One of those reports was an "ought not pass" report. But two additional reports, amending the original bill -- split the Democratic faction on the committee in support of the measure.

That led to two additional reports; two "ought to pass as amended" reports. And the issue in both was the treatment of unaffiliated voters in the state of Maine. One amended version allowed for the automatic participation of those voters not enrolled in one of the major parties in the state. But the other amended option opened the door to unaffiliated participation in the event that the state parties notify the secretary of state in Maine by December 1 of the year prior to a presidential election whether that segment of the electorate can participate. In other words, it gives state parties the option of allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in their primary. Failure to notify the secretary of state reverts the primary for that party to the traditional closed format that Maine has most often used.

Those reports came out of the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee last Friday and the state Senate wasted no time in acting upon them. On Monday, June 3, the state Senate passed -- 19-13 on a mainly party-line vote (only one Republican crossed ranks and joined Democrats in support of the measure) -- the state party option amended version of the bill.

The legislation now moves down to the state House for concurrence and moves Maine a little bit closer to not only reestablishing a presidential primary but scheduling it for Super Tuesday as well.

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Side note: Recall that the Maine Democratic Party submitted a delegate selection plan to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee describing a caucus system for the 2020. But the party also added the caveat that the legislature was considering primary election legislation. At that time upon release of the draft plan, the Maine Democratic Party went on record as preferring the ranked choice voting bill. With the Super Tuesday bill moving and the ranked choice version perhaps headed for a death in committee, the state Democratic Party reaction will be worth following. The national party preference is for a primary where a state-run option is available, but that is only a preference. If the ranked choice aspect is a deal-breaker, then Maine Democrats could stick with the caucus format as laid out in their delegate selection plan.


--
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

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

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday


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