Sunday, February 1, 2015

SEC Primary Bill Finds Early Support in Mississippi House Committee

The Mississippi state House version of a bill to shift the Magnolia state presidential primary up a week into the SEC primary slot on March 1 has passed muster at the committee level.

Procedurally in the Mississippi House, once a bill is referred to committee, that committee has two initial jobs. First, it must check that the title of the bill is clear and reflects the changes called for in the legislation. Second, the House committee can offer a recommendation on the ultimate fate of the bill. In the case of HB 933, the Mississippi state House Apportionment and Elections Committee last week recommended that the bill (moving the primary up a week) "do pass" when it comes to the floor for a vote.

This is an incremental step toward a move that Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has said everyone involved in the process is "on board" with.

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Utah Republicans Leaning Toward 2016 Caucuses Over Primary

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Utah Republicans Leaning Toward 2016 Caucuses Over Primary

The Utah state legislature convened this past week, and with that opened the small window in which legislators have to act on decisions regarding the Beehive state position on the 2016 presidential primary calendar. Yes, there are probably other, maybe even more pressing, matters they will deal with. However, where the primary calendar is concerned, Utah is one of those states that could serve as a problem to orderliness with which the calendar finalizes over the course of this year.

Elections law in Utah provides legislators with a number of options with regard to the presidential primary. If they collectively choose to appropriate funds for it, the state could hold what the law calls a Western States Presidential Primary.1 That contest is scheduled for the first Tuesday in February, a date non-compliant with national party rules. Legislators could opt to either fund the contest as is for February, provide the funds but change to a compliant date, or not fund the contest at all. If no appropriations are forthcoming, the state parties can utilize the regular fourth Tuesday in June primary for other offices.2

That the state parties have some recourse in all of this is an important factor to consider here. No party in Utah or elsewhere is forced into using a state-funded primary. Most do because the alternative is putting up party money to pay for party-run primaries or caucuses. Those are resources state parties tend to either not have or want to use elsewhere. There are, however, occasional trade-offs that parties may consider. Often state parties opt for caucuses in lieu of a primary because the state party has less control over the primary electorate than a caucus electorate. Stated slightly differently, state law calls for an open or closed primary when the state party would prefer the opposite: to either contract or expand the electorate (see Meinke, et al. 2006).

This is the position Utah is in to some extent. The parties have the ability to close the primary to just partisans according to the law, but only in a presidential primary. In a regular primary, independents can choose which party's primary in which to participate. There is a conflict between what the law and some in the Republican-controlled state government want and what the consensus within the leadership of the state party desire. Much of this dates back to the quirky caucus/convention system that helped Tea Party-aligned Mike Lee defeat sitting Senator Robert Bennett in the 2010 Republican Senate nomination race in Utah. All told there are factions in the Utah Republican Party that want different things out of the nomination process.

Even though the presidential nomination portion of this is not really wrapped up in the fallout from the 2010 caucuses/convention process, the Utah Republican Party has signaled that it will select and allocate delegates to the 2016 national convention through a caucuses/convention process, opting out of the state-funded presidential primary. The state party can exercise more control over who participates as well as when the precinct caucuses will initiate the process. The latter point makes the state legislative calculus on funding and timing the presidential primary mostly moot.

That does not mean that there will not be changes made to the primary system in the state legislature. In fact, at the same time that Utah Republican Party chairman, James Evans was saying the party would use a caucuses/convention system, Representative Jon Cox (R-Ephraim) was talking about those primary changes. Cox was the legislator who, in 2014, authored and shepherded through the state House a measure to shift the presidential primary voting online and to move that primary ahead of Iowa on the calendar. The bill died in the state Senate, but the idea did not die. Well, the provocative Iowa-challenging part seems to have seen its day pass, but the online voting aspect did not. Cox has a bill in the hopper already concerning online voting and that could serve as a vehicle for changing the non-compliant February date of the presidential primary in Utah (or another bill could be introduced to that effect).

What remains to be seen is whether those changes if passed and signed into law would entice the Utah Republican Party back into the state-funded presidential primary option. The party has not necessarily raised concerns over the date of the primary or online voting (though it seems open to including the latter in its caucuses process). The issue over who can participate remains, not in the presidential nomination process, but in the nomination processes for other offices. The presidential nomination portion is only affected to the extent it occurs simultaneous with other nominations processes.

For the 2016 presidential primary calendar, though, news of potential Utah caucuses adds another variable to the mix, but greatly lowers the odds of Utah being a calendar troublemaker this time around. State parties tend to be more protective of their delegations and most play by the rules as such.

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1 The law was originally passed in the late 1990s with a regional primary in mind, but the law has never really been exercised as intended. The thought was that other states -- Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, etc. -- would hold concurrent contests with Utah in much the same way that southern states are planning on a Deep South/SEC primary for 2016. As it happened, Utah ended up going it mostly alone in subsequent cycles. And that is fine under the law. There is no guidance with respect to how many other or what other western states must participate in the Western States Presidential Primary for Utah to be able to participate.

2 Utah Republicans used the June primary in 2012. However, given changes to the RNC delegate selection rules accommodating an earlier national convention, the primary's fourth Tuesday in June date would not be compliant with the rules either. That makes the June primary a less attractive option for the state parties.


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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 2016 RNC Super Penalty

From the 2012 Rules of the Republican Party (the delegate selection rules that will govern the 2016 nomination process):
Rule 17(a): If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(2), the number of delegates and the number of alternate delegates to the national convention from that state shall each be reduced by fifty percent (50%). Any sum presenting a fraction shall be decreased to the next whole number. No delegation shall be reduced to less than two (2) delegates and a corresponding number of alternate delegates. If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced for those states with 30 or more total delegates to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state, and for those sates with 29 or fewer total delegates to six (6) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state. The corresponding alternate delegates shall also be reduced accordingly.
The second half of that rule (bolded by FHQ for emphasis) describes the so-called super penalty to be levied on states that violate the timing rules laid out in Rule 16(c)(1). The reality is that the penalty is there to prevent states from doing that; going rouge. Instead of the flat 50% delegation reduction used in 2012, the RNC will shrink rogue delegations to 12 total delegates (in states originally with 30 or more delegates) and to 9 total delegates (in states with 29 or fewer delegates) in 2016. The party has traded that flat rate of reduction to a set point of reduction that places an increasing penalty on states as their delegations grow in size.

Now that the 2014 midterms have passed, the Republican National Committee has the data necessary to determine bonus delegates and thus the size of each state delegation.1 A firmer sense of the size of each delegation (via The Green Papers), in turn, provides the extent to which the super penalty would affect each state if a decision was made on the state level to break the rules prohibiting primaries or caucuses before the first Tuesday in March (March 1, 2016).2

Here is the percentage of the delegation lost if each state violated the super penalty (More below the figure):
With the exception of Delaware, Vermont and the four smallest territories, all states have a greater than 50% penalty for a delegate selection event scheduled before March 1. And even if, say, Delaware or Vermont decided to roll the dice and go rogue, the combination of nine delegates in Democratic Party-dominated states would likely not prove attractive to the candidates. Of course, that would assumes that those Democratic state governments would move the primaries into earlier and non-compliant calendar positions in the first place.

As the delegations grow in size, the effect of the penalty increases. States with delegations larger than 60 delegates would face an over 80% reduction in possibly being non-compliant. North Carolina, for example, moved up the list since our earliest look at the original super penalty. The state is now under unified Republican control and has gained bonuses as a result. But those in the Republican majorities on the state level also opted to separate the presidential primary from those for state and local offices and tether that presidential primary to the (likely February) primary in South Carolina. That means the Tar Heel state is currently staring down a substantial 83% reduction to their full 71 member delegation (tied for sixth largest delegation).

Past rogue states have already disarmed. Florida moved back. Arizona moved back. Michigan looks to be moving back. All moved after the original super penalty came out of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. Other states with February contests (New York) or ties to February contests (Colorado, Minnesota, Utah) have either moved back in the past (and are likely to do so again) or have options that allow them to avoid the problems attendant to non-compliant contests.

Upping the penalty seems to be having the desired effect from the RNC perspective.

...but it is not all the way there. All eyes on North Carolina.

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1 Those bonuses -- determined by the guidelines in Rule 14(a)(5-7) -- are based on Republican electoral votes in the previous presidential election and Republicans' hold on US House and Senate positions, governors seats and state legislative control. Basically, the more Republican control there is in a state, the more bonus delegates are added to a state's at-large delegate pool.

2 This penalty does not apply to the carve-out states unless any of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and/or South Carolina holds a contest more than a month before the next earliest, non-carve-out state.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back to the Future in Michigan: Another Attempt to Move Presidential Primary to March

After a failed attempt during last December's lame duck session, the Michigan state legislature has again initiated an attempt to move the Great Lakes state presidential primary into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules.

State Senator David Robertson (R-14th, Genesee) has introduced SB 44 which would change the date of the presidential primary in Michigan from the fourth Tuesday in February to the third Tuesday in March. The language of the bill is the same as SB 1159 from the lame duck session late last year with the same impact. It would bring the state back into compliance with the national party rules, helping both Michigan parties avoid sanction from either the DNC or RNC. That means a full delegation -- on the Republican side anyway -- for the first time in two cycles if the bill is passed and signed into law.

This would also push Michigan far enough down the calendar -- to March 15 for the 2016 cycle -- that it would be on the earliest date on which Republican states can utilize winner-take-all allocation rules. However, Michigan Republicans have already settled on an allocation plan that is not truly winner-take-all. Instead, the state party has authorized a conditionally winner-take-all system for 2016. If one candidate clears the 50% threshold in the statewide vote, then that candidate would be entitled to the full allotment of delegates from Michigan. If, however, no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the allocation is winner-take-all by congressional district with the statewide, at-large delegates awarded proportional to the candidates' shares of the vote statewide.

March 15 is a date that the Michigan Republican Party has endorsed and also falls at a point on the calendar that coincides with primaries in regional neighbor, Illinois.1 Missouri also has a presidential primary scheduled for that date. There has been talk of a midwestern primary and this may be a spot on the calendar where states open to that idea gather.

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1 If Illinois maintains that position.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Legislation Would Shift Illinois Presidential, Other Primaries from March to June

For the second consecutive session, Illinois state Representative Scott Drury (D-58th, Highwood) has introduced legislation to move the primary election in the Land of Lincoln.

HB 193 would move the Illinois primary from the third Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in June. Rep. Drury brought the same bill forward in 2013, and it went nowhere after being referred to committee. The 2015 bill would seem destined for the same fate. Illinois holds consolidated primaries, merging its presidential and other primaries. The move to June not only would mean a move to the very end of the calendar, but it would also mean that the primary would fall outside of the window established by the national parties.

The window in which non-carve-out states can hold primaries and caucuses without penalty runs from the first Tuesday in March through the second Tuesday in June. A fourth Tuesday in June primary would fall outside of that part of the calendar. With delegates directly elected in Illinois, a June primary would also likely be logistically infeasible given July conventions for both parties.

This one, like its predecessor, is likely not going anywhere.


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Monday, January 26, 2015

The End of the New Hampshire Primary? ...by Death Penalty?

Former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman and current Granite state Republican national committeeman, Steve Duprey, set off a bit of a discussion about the New Hampshire presidential primary over the weekend. It did not get a lot of attention because it was inside baseball stuff.

...and everyone was paying attention to what was happening in Iowa anyway.

But given Mr. Duprey's position on the RNC from New Hampshire, there are some interesting delegate selection rules-related items buried in this that are worth exploring.1

It all stems from this via John DiStaso (at NH Journal):
Duprey also said there has been discussion about a “death penalty,” although it is not part of the current rules governing the 2016 cycle’s delegate selection process. He wrote in his report to the NHGOP that some RNC members have discussed a rule that would force candidate who campaigned or allowed their names on the ballot of a state that wasn’t following the RNC schedule to forfeit half of all delegates they earn nationally.  
The “death penalty,” said Duprey “is always out there as a possibility. If we find that we have an enforcement problem even under the current rule, it could be considered for 2020.”  
And Duprey wrote to the NHGOP, “Obviously the adoption of such a rule would end our primary.”
Now, obviously that last line is a bit provocative. But let's start from the top.

The RNC added for the 2016 cycle a super penalty -- the so-called Bennett rule -- with the intent of significantly curtailing states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding primaries of caucuses before the first Tuesday in March. States with delegations of 30 or more would have their delegates reduced to just 12. The reduction would scale a little lower still -- a mere 9 delegates -- for states with delegations of 29 or fewer delegates. This creates a scaleable penalty that hits big states harder than small states while still maintaining a stiff penalty for all. A state like California, for example, would face a more than 90% reduction, but even a state like West Virginia would still be levied a more than 60% penalty. In both cases, the state would have a larger penalty levied on its delegation than the rules that governed the 2012 process would have allowed.

Even with that new, more severe penalty, the RNC considered for upping the ante even more with a death penalty. FHQ would be willing to guess that it did not quite work that way as the RNC finalized its rules for 2016. It is more likely that both options -- super penalty and death penalty -- were discussed, but there was more consensus behind the incremental step that the super penalty represented by comparison (to doing nothing or going nuclear with the death penalty).

Yet, the death penalty idea survived to apparently loom over the 2016 trial run of the new super penalty.2 And it -- the death penalty -- very much takes a page out of the Democratic National Committee playbook from eight or nine years ago. Faced with similar problems -- states potentially violating the timing rules with too-early primaries of caucuses -- the Democratic National Committee opted for a 50% penalty (while retaining the ability to increase that penalty) but coupled with a penalty placed on any candidate who campaigned in a rogue state. That combination not only hit the state delegation but choked off the attention any rogue state might like to get out of an early contest (because candidates would stay away from states where campaigning meant losing any and all delegates won in that state).3

The tabled RNC death penalty is a version of that Democratic rule on steroids. The candidate who campaigns in a rogue state or allows their name to remain on the ballot there under the death penalty would lose half of their delegates accrued nationally. Not just half in the rogue state.

That is a significant scare tactic to keep candidates out of states that have violated the rules. And it would certainly give states something to think about. Moving forward to hold a ghost town primary or caucuses may not prove to be all that attractive.

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How much would this impact New Hampshire and the New Hampshire primary?

Not much. Mr. Duprey probably overstated the impact of a potential death penalty on New Hampshire. Under the current RNC rules, New Hampshire and the other carve-out states have one month ahead of the next earliest contest to schedule their primaries and caucuses. It is a sliding scale. If Florida jumps to January 1 then the carve-out states would have a window from then to December 1 in which to schedule their contests without penalty. Only if New Hampshire held a primary before December 1 in that scenario would the Granite state be subject to the effects of the proposed death penalty.

That's something that Mr. Duprey acknowledged in a follow up on Facebook this past Saturday (again via DiStaso):
Duprey continued, "Also note that if a party adopted a so called ‘death penalty’ rule it would only be the end of our primary if the national party did not accord us the honor of going first. As I added in my report to state committee members, support for the NH primary’s first in the nation status has never been stronger and a death penalty rule could actually add an even stronger protection to our primary if we were kept first on the schedule, which I believe we would be."
Unless some anti-carve-out state sentiment -- well more than the normal sentiment -- develops between now and, say, 2018, then New Hampshire will continue to be afforded the same privileged position it has always had in the presidential nomination process.

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1 Mr. Duprey also headed up the committee that handed down recommendations for debates regulation during the Republican nomination process.

2 I try to point this out as much as I can, but often FHQ does not mix this in often enough. It is an important point though. The presidential nomination rules are always a trial and error process. The national parties do not have an opportunity to stress test them before the primaries and caucuses start. The trial part, then, is often by fire. The only test is a primaries and caucuses cycle. And by the time those start, it can often be too late (depending on if and how the states have spent the year prior to the presidential election year adapting to the national party rules). This super penalty is one such example. Right now, in January 2015, it looks like it is working, but that may be different in a month or in six months.

3 It should be noted that Obama, Clinton and the other 2008 Democratic candidates steered clear of states like Florida and Michigan. They may have been less about the rule than about the fact that the candidates and their proxies on the Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed to the addition of that candidate-specific provision.


Recent Posts:
Earlier Convention Forcing South Dakota to Push Presidential Primary Up?

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Earlier Convention Forcing South Dakota to Push Presidential Primary Up?

Bob Mercer, reporter with Aberdeen American News, raises the question.

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First of all, the answer seems to be no. Mr. Mercer details well the history of South Dakota legislators moving the presidential primary in the Mount Rushmore state up to the tail end of February (from June) for the 1988 cycle and maintaining that position through 1996. The motivation for the February move, as it always seems to be, was to garner more attention for South Dakota and South Dakota issues. The problem was that the earlier primary was not an effective draw to those candidates actually seeking the nominations. That precipitated a return to June and consolidated presidential and other primaries. From 2000 onward, South Dakota has been lumped in with a small group of states at the very end of the primary calendar.

That did not mean, however, that South Dakota has not revisited the idea of an earlier presidential primary in the time since. Like a great many states in the lead up to the competitive -- on both sides -- 2008 primaries, South Dakota considered legislation to shift the presidential primary to an earlier date on the calendar. Bills met resistance in the legislature and died in both 2006 and 2007, as Mr. Mercer describes.

The 2016 presidential cycle offers, perhaps, a new wrinkle to the date-setting calculus in the later states on the calendar. That decision-making process is typically leave well enough alone if not non-existent. States at the end of the process tend to have consolidated primaries and often find the cost savings associated with one contest difficult to give up. That is no different in South Dakota.

What is different for the 2016 cycle is the push from the national parties to schedule earlier national conventions.1 But the question Mr. Mercer poses from the South Dakota perspective is different now that the two major parties have scheduled July conventions than it was when the RNC was considering a June convention. A June convention really would have exerted some pressure on June primary states to consider earlier contests. That pressure -- mostly from the RNC side -- would have come in the form of a kind of backwards delegate selection process. For the logistics to work -- convention credentialing of delegates, etc. -- delegates would have to be selected, presumably via a caucuses/convention process, before the individual slots would be allocated to particular candidates based on the primary results.2 That can make the process feel more top-down than bottom-up to rank-and-file members of a party/primary voters.

But with June off the table and two July conventions, this appears to be less of an issue for the South Dakotas and Montanas and Californias of the process, all the way at the end of the primary calendar. July conventions are not anything new. In fact, July conventions for the party out of the White House were the norm as recently as 2004. Sure, the Republican National Convention is the earliest since 1980, but there were a number of contests on that first Tuesday in June (an equivalent amount of time, then as in 2016) ahead of the convention.

Will South Dakota move? Indications at the state legislative level seem to suggest no according to Mr. Mercer. The legislators that sponsored bill during the 2008 cycle are not actively pushing legislation and do not foresee any push. Beyond that, there is not any added pressure from the national parties. The conventions will be earlier in 2016, but not in June; a time that would really have forced the primary movement issue in South Dakota and other states.

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1 The Republican National Committee was responsible for the majority of this push, considering June and July convention times before settling on a convention in Cleveland during the week of July 18, 2016. In a reactive move, the Democratic National Committee then set the date of their 2016 convention for a week later in a location yet to be determined.

2 This sounds worse than it probably would be in practice. The reversing of the selection and allocation processes would only be consequential (controversial) if a nomination race was still competitive at that late point in the calendar. The odds are against that, however.


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Friday, January 23, 2015

Pair of Bills Propose Earlier Presidential Primary in Connecticut

Two bills introduced in the Connecticut state Senate this morning would alter the position of the Nutmeg state presidential primary in 2016. Both pieces of legislation were sponsored by minority party Republicans, but are not replicas of each other.1 One is actually quite unique.

Senator Joe Markley (R-16th, Cheshire) put forth SB 610, which would shift the Connecticut presidential primary from the last Tuesday in April to the first Tuesday in March. Now, it should be noted that Connecticut moved from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February for the 2008 cycle. That move brought the presidential primary there back to the earliest allowed date according to national party rules at the time. When those rules changed for the 2012 electoral cycle, Connecticut was one of those 18 states that had to move back to comply with the rules eliminating February contests. Instead of opting to move back a month to the then newly established earliest date -- the first Tuesday in March -- Democratic-controlled Connecticut decided to move back in to April to hold a primary concurrently with contests in Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.  Democratic states with non-compliant primaries were much more likely to move to late March and even April dates than non-compliant states under unified Republican control.

Now, it appears that at least some elected Republicans in the Nutmeg state want to reverse course and hold an earlier primary in 2016. But they -- along with Democrats in the state Senate -- will have a couple of options to discuss.

SB 610 shifts the presidential primary to the first Tuesday in March, but SB 599 -- introduced by Senator Michael A. McLachlan (R-24th, Bethel) and co-sponsored by Representative Richard A. Smith (R-108th, New Fairfield) on the House side -- would move only the Republican presidential primary in Connecticut and move it to the first Thursday in March.

This one is quirky for a couple of reasons:

First, the bill proposes splitting up the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries. The Republican contest would move to March while the Democratic contest would continue to be scheduled for April. This happens in some states, but typically it means that one party has opted into the state-funded primary election while the other major party has opted to fund its own (usually) caucuses to select and allocate delegates. We also see this in states where both parties conduct caucuses. Those cross-party contests are sometimes on the same date, but often not. With the exception of South Carolina, states do not often fund two separate presidential primary elections.2 It is expensive. That could be a roadblock to minority party Republicans trying to find support for this measure.

The other strange thing about this second bill -- SB 599 -- is that it seeks to move the primary from a Tuesday in April to a nontraditional Thursday position in March. This would appear to be a nod to the reality that the first Tuesday in March -- the earliest allowed date -- may be a crowded slot on the calendar. It does have a southern flavor to it at this point and looks to be getting even more so, but could be attractive to any state, southern or not, seeking to attempt to influence the presidential nomination races. Moving to a Thursday may achieve the attention while avoiding the crowd.

Of course, the expenditure for the separate contest kind of cancels out the potential good a nontraditional Thursday, March 3 primary might have.

Both bills offer something for Connecticut lawmakers trying to gain the state some influence in the process (if not just putting voters in a position to vote ahead of the point on the calendar on which one candidate wraps up the nomination). Moving to March 1 -- as called for in SB 610 -- would mean a primary on the likely SEC primary date, but all the non-southern states on March 1 are all northeastern neighbors of Connecticut -- Massachusetts and Vermont. Small though that collection of states may be, they would collectively serve as some counterbalance to the series of southern contests. Most likely, however, they would be ignored as most candidates focus on the southern states with more delegates.

That is what makes the Thursday option potentially more attractive -- minus the expenditure. Connecticut would be the only contest on that date in between the SEC primary and the Louisiana primary that following weekend. And the proposal is not as off-the-wall as it may seem on the surface. Both Georgia and Florida considered Thursday primaries in 2012.

Both bills now head off for consideration in the Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections.

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1 This differs from the two bills introduced to move the presidential primary in Mississippi on parallel tracks, one in each chamber.

2 South Carolina has had separate dates for the parties' presidential primaries, but does that to provide some flexibility to state parties that are also attempting to maintain the first in the South spot on the calendar. There is legislation currently before the South Carolina legislature to merge those two primaries.


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Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Companion Bills Introduced to Move Mississippi Presidential Primary into SEC Primary Position

On Monday, January 19, identical bills were introduced -- one each in the Mississippi state House and Senate -- to shift the date of the Magnolia state presidential primary up one week.

HB 933 and SB 2531 would move the Mississippi presidential primary from the second Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in March. This potential shift is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, the proposed move would push the presidential primary up to the earliest date allowed by the national party rules; in 2016, March 1. This would also position the Mississippi primary in the proposed calendar slot for the so-called SEC primary.

Finally, this subtle repositioning, if passed and signed into law, would be the first time in seven presidential primary cycles that the Mississippi primary has fallen on a date other than the second Tuesday in March. Up to the 1988 cycle, Mississippi had had either later primaries or the state parties had opted to select and allocate delegates through a caucuses/convention system (see Mississippi Democrats in 1984).

Should the move come to fruition, it would place the Mississippi presidential primary alongside other southern primaries in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.1 There are also primaries scheduled for March 1 in Massachusetts and Vermont.

Related:
Will a Calendar Bump Up Mean More Candidate Visits in SEC Primary States?

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1 There is legislation in Oklahoma, though, that would move the primary in the Sooner state back three weeks to March 22.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Primary Movement, 2015 v. 2011

2015 is not 2011.

Aside from a steady stream of light chatter throughout the late summer and fall about the proposed SEC primary, there just has not been much talk or, for that matter, action on the presidential primary movement front. Granted, while most state legislatures have convened for 2015 sessions, many have not settled in for the business-as-usual legislative work. Still, at this point four years ago, there was slightly more activity on the state-level to tweak the calendar positions of a number of presidential primaries. In mid-January 2011, there were bills that had been introduced to shift the dates on which presidential primaries would be held in 2012 in California, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia and other primary-date-related legislation in Washington.

From a numbers standpoint, things are not altogether different in 2015. The stream is more a trickle with only Arizona and Oklahoma proposing primary moves thus far.1 One reaction is that it is simply too early to tell any significant difference between the two cycles. Yes, we are talking about a 50% decrease from 2011 to 2015, but substantively that represents only a subtle drop from four to two bills across cycles. That may not be enough to warrant even a meh.

It is early, but there is reason to think that there will be far less primary movement in 2015 than there was in 2011. The bills aren't there, but neither is the chatter. There is no talk of what Florida might do. The Sunshine state pulled back from the 2016 precipice in 2013. The constant "will they or won't they" drumbeat about Florida in 2011 reverberated, affecting decision-making in other states (notably the carve-out states, but others as well).

The most striking difference between 2011 and 2015, though, is based on the rules. Both the DNC and RNC informally agreed to a calendar structure that had the four carve-out states with February contests and all other states following in March or later. That intention has carried over to the 2016 cycle as well. The baseline, starting point calendar was different in 2011 than it is in 2015. FHQ touched on this last week (see map), but it bears repeating if not some accentuation. In January 2011, there were 18 primary states with laws in place calling for February primaries. That is, there were 18 states that were non-compliant with the delegate selection rules of both national parties. Those states had to change to avoid sanctions.



That is missing in 2015.

There is far less urgency on the state level to comply with the national parties' rules. Only Michigan, New York and North Carolina are in direct violation of those rules. Even then, Michigan and New York are likely to move into compliance.2 Other states could be early and non-compliant, but have options built into state laws that provide them with some flexibility (see Colorado, Minnesota and Utah).

The transition from 2012 to 2016 -- from a primary movement perspective -- is a lot like the one from 2004 to 2008, but in reverse. Republicans had allowed some February contests beyond the carve-outs in 1996 and 2000, but that was limited because the DNC still set the first Tuesday in March as the earliest date on which states other than Iowa and New Hampshire could conduct delegate selection events. For the 2004 cycle, the DNC changed course, allowing February contests by pushing that "earliest date" from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. The state-level reaction was not a tidal wave of movement forward for 2004. Some states moved up to that earliest compliant position -- Arizona, North Dakota and Oklahoma among them -- but the significant movement did not occur until the 2008 cycle when both parties had the prospect of active and competitive nomination races.

The change in rules in both national parties for 2012 was intended to eliminate the February issue. But as was the case from 2000-2008, reversing course can and usually does take multiple cycles. That is how it is in this iterative and sequential process. The national parties devise delegate selection rules often to fight the last war and the states react. Most react in accordance with those rules changes, but some do not. Those laggards are the ones the national parties target with rules changes in the next round; the next cycle.

That 2016 is about cleaning up the stragglers from the national parties' perspectives instead of affecting some wholesale change in state behavior is why 2015 is not 2011.

...and we probably won't get a repeat of this.

--
1 Oregon and South Carolina both have primary-related bills, but neither piece of legislation directly affects the date on which the presidential primaries will be conducted.

2 Michigan Republicans have endorsed a later date and New York shifted back from February to April for 2012 (but placed a sunset provision on the change). The primary is back in February, but unlikely to stay there.


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