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).


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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.


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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.

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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 its 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.


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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

6/4/19: 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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The Nationalization of the Presidential Nomination Process and Candidate Visits

Over the weekend, FHQ scoffed at a line in Jonathan Martin's New York Times story on the cavalcade of Democratic presidential hopefuls heading to the California Democratic Convention to speak. And although Super Tuesday remains on the same first Tuesday in March date that it was three years ago (and four years before that), Martin raises some interesting points about the nationalization of the presidential nomination process that are worth considering.

But also worth considering is the fact that this Golden state gathering was, at best, weak evidence of that nationalization phenomenon. Martin takes it as fact that since the two dozen Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination have already visited 33 states and territories that the race has, voila!, nationalized. It certainly appears that way. Yet, there remain several lingering questions/points.

The first is that map included in the story -- the one with the dots -- indicated the number of candidates who have visited the various states and not the number of visits candidates have made to those states. That depiction, while noteworthy on some level, is misleading. It makes a state like California look like it is much closer to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina than it actually is. California is closer to the carve-out states in the number of candidates, but not really in the collective number of visits by the candidates.

That is consistent with the pattern of visits during the 2008 cycle, the last competitive Democratic presidential nomination cycle with a sizable number of quality (and qualified) candidates. California notched the fifth most visits during that cycle, behind (in order) Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. All four had earlier (and in some cases non-compliant) dates on the 2008 presidential primary calendar than did the California primary scheduled on Super Tuesday.  The Golden state was well behind Iowa and New Hampshire in the number of visits that it got from candidates of both parties and less behind both South Carolina and Florida. Still, big, delegate-rich, and Super Tuesday California managed the fifth most visits.

And that comparison to 2008 is important because it highlights another shortcoming in Martin's piece. If 14 Democratic candidates trekking to San Francisco on the same weekend to speak before the state party convention is evidence of the nomination process nationalizing, then it is evidence of that trend compared to what? Martin drops this line:
This weekend was no aberration: Democratic presidential contenders have already combined to visit more than 30 states and territories for public events, far more than in any past nominating contest when candidates would spend the vast majority of their time in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But does not really back it up.

The easiest, albeit apples to oranges (to some degree), comparison is to the 2016 Republican process. The parties are different, but some of the conditions are the same. There was a large field of Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in 2015-16. There also was a minimally altered primary calendar of events over which the nomination race would be contested.

That 2016 Republican race, too, drew similar reactions. But instead of California, candidates, their campaigns, other political actors and the press talked about the SEC primary and how it was disrupting the regular rhythms of the nomination process. But the pattern witnessed then was that while there were visits to SEC primary and other states throughout 2015, as actual voting neared attention shifted toward the early states. In other words, the pattern normalized, still weighted -- and fairly heavily -- toward the early states.

One thing that the SEC primary of 2016 and the California primary of 2020 share is a certain branding. And not just branding, but a concerted and early effort to draw attention to the contests. Then Georgia secretary of state, Brian Kemp (R) was talking up the possibility of an SEC primary as early as February 2014, and thereafter there was a fairly constant drumbeat not only about the possibility, but of the formation of and coordination behind that regional contest for Super Tuesday 2016. Kemp and other southern secretaries of state pushed the idea and pushed it hard by hammering home the idea that the South was where the most loyal Republicans in the country are and that the path the nomination went through those voters. Campaigns took notice.

Similarly, California made an early splash in the 2020 presidential cycle by beginning the process of shifting the more-often-than-not June primary up to March. The argument in an April 2017 press release on the bill was the following:
“A state as populous and diverse as California should not be an afterthought. Moving up the California primary in 2020 makes sense and will give California voters a more significant role. By holding our primary earlier, we will ensure that issues important to Californians are prioritized by presidential candidates from all political parties,” said Secretary Padilla. 
“California is the largest, most diverse state in the nation with one of the largest economies in the world,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Yet Californians’ voices are silenced when it comes to choosing presidential nominees. California is leading the nation on clean air, criminal justice reform, and expanding healthcare for all, and moving up our presidential primary will ensure our state’s voters are heard in the national debate.”
Now, there has been a lot of ink spilled over the potential impact of the California primary move. Much has focused on the structural impact: the shift of so many delegates to an earlier point on the calendar, the impact of early voting, among others. But almost all also mention the diversity that California (and for that matter other Super Tuesday states) bring to a process that includes not only a diverse Democratic primary electorate, but a diverse field of candidates. Again, candidates have, as they did four years ago with the SEC primary, taken notice.

But does that represent a nationalization of the process or evidence of a nationalization of the process? One way to approach this is to reject the null hypothesis; that candidates appearing in states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina is not because of a nationalization of the process.

And FHQ would argue there are at least two factors standing in the way of us rejecting the null in this case. They are two factors that I raised back in 2015 in the context of similar lines of argument about the SEC primary. Candidates are not going to states other than the four carve-outs because of some nationalization process. No, instead, they are heading to California and Puerto Rico and West Virginia and other states because...
  1. It's the field [size], stupid. More candidates means more potential overall visits. More candidates also means that if everyone is heading to Iowa, then perhaps no one is heading to Iowa. In other words, the value of an Iowa visit is less if one are venturing around the Hawkeye state with 23 other candidates than if one is competing there with five other candidates. Candidates have to stand out and if they are all going to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, then them may be less likely to stand out. And standing out is something that these 24 Democratic candidates have to do. 
  2. Calendar certainty. Another related factor is that the calendar formation for the 2020 cycle has been not only orderly but slow compared to past cycles in this century. It is a lot easier as a candidate and/or campaign to make a decision to go to California if that campaign has a fairly good idea about where it fits in the calculus of winning the nomination. California's position on the calendar is no more nor less known now than it was in the lead up to 2008, for example. But 2019 does not feature the sort of rules defiance that 2007 saw. There is no Florida. There is no Michigan to disrupt the early calendar as was the case in 2007. That left campaigns at that time with a dilemma. They could only plan ahead so far when the beginning portions of the calendar remained in flux as the Florida and Michigan issue was unresolved. All that was known to campaigns at the time was that Iowa and New Hampshire would be first. All subsequent contests were obscured by the uncertainty. Contrast that with 2019. The carve-out states indeed have February carved out. And a delegate bonanza hits just after on Super Tuesday in early March. Other states may yet join Super Tuesday -- but that is unlikely at this point -- but the basic outline of the calendar has been preserved. A slow on-ramp through February toward Super Tuesday. That certainty helps campaigns plan and plan ahead for the next steps in the sequence.
To be fair to Martin, he is absolutely right that cable news (nothing new) and online tools (especially social media) help to if not nationalize then uniformize the coverage of presidential campaigns. But whether that has a nationalizing effect on the process itself is a trickier question to answer. It creates more national appeals from campaigns or attempts to go viral, but that is hardly evidence that the "stranglehold on the time, money and attention of the White House aspirants in the year leading up to the primaries" that Iowa and New Hampshire has been broken. It is probably a bit premature to come to that conclusion. If anything, the expectation should be that attention will ramp up in the earliest states beginning in the fall. They are, after all, the first voting moves in the sequence. But if there is a break in that pattern -- a reversion to carve-out state-focused campaigning as fall works its way to winter, then we may have some evidence of a break in that stranglehold.

As it stands, it is still pretty good to be first. And campaign visits data will continue to reflect that.


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