Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Arizona's in too...officially

I swear, creating a summary of the presidential primary and caucus movement for the 2008 cycle seemed like a good idea at the time. With the rapid pace with which things are changing this time around though, such an effort can prove pointless before it is even done. At least I had the foresight to include a "Still Up in the Air" section. Michigan was the first state to prove why it was among those states with information coming out late last week that the state was considering a move to January 15. Arizona now becomes the latest on that list to make a move. As I mentioned in the summary last week, the speculation for much of the year has been that Arizona would move to February 5. And kudos to Governor Janet Napolitano (D) for exhibiting some restraint in her proclamation and not moving the state's presidential preference election any earlier. With Florida, South Carolina Republicans and now Michigan thwarting national party rules, the temptation to go even earlier must have been there to some degree.

Let's step back and scrutinize the Arizona case though. Most major news accounts, and even blogs, are simply saying that Gov. Napolitano has issued a proclamation to move the state's primary. All the while, political observers are missing the uniqueness of the Arizona system; mainly that the governor is making the decision to frontload and not the state legislature, as is the case for the majority of states that have moved thus far this cycle. The Arizona state legislature created a presidential primary (see the history section in the link) during the 1992 session (to take effect in 1996), but amended the statute in 1995 before it had even been tested. The new law (as altered by SB 1263) changed the designation of the election from a primary to a preference election (because the winner would not necessarily appear on the general election ballot), changed the date of the election from the second Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in February, and granted the governor the power to issue a proclamation changing the date of the election.

This gubernatorial power went unused through two cycles (1996 and 2000), but as several states moved into February for the 2004 cycle, Gov. Napolitano became the first governor to exercise this power, bumping up the date of the election three weeks to join six other states on the first Tuesday in February. Here is the proclamation from 2004. Just yesterday Gov. Napolitano repeated the action, moving the election to February 5. Here is a link to the governor's press release (click view file under the appropriate Aug. 21st entry).

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