Thursday, December 30, 2010

Really, Seriously!?! New Hampshire Wants to Keep Its First in the Nation Primary Status?

Well, that's news to FHQ. Have they done this before?

Actually, this is a post (at least in part) that FHQ put together last January when the General Court in New Hampshire was tweaking the election law regarding the timing of its presidential primary. It has been sitting in the queue for a year for some reason; probably because it perfectly proves the point that the "warning" that the Granite state will protect its position really is not all that newsworthy.

Well, it is (...around these parts). And The Union Leader's John DiStaso is absolutely right in saying that New Hampshirites on the Democratic Change Commission and on the Rules and Bylaws Committee were awfully quiet when it came time to vote on the delegate selection rules for 2012. They knew the proposed four day window between New Hampshire and Nevada would be in violation of the state law. In my own personal experience at the Change Commission's May meeting, Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and committeeman, uttered nary a word about this conflict.

FHQ remains neutral in these things (the pros and cons of New Hampshire's privileged position -- Hey, I just research this stuff.), but one would have to see right off that the powers-that-be in the Granite state would stand up to defend their turf as they see it. If they allow the law's enforcement to be fudged in any way, the state becomes vulnerable to challenges in future presidential nomination cycles.

That said, New Hampshire did let the law enforcement slide somewhat in 2008. That seven day window applies on either side of the primary in New Hampshire -- before and after. Given how Iowa and New Hampshire decided to adhere to the unwritten rule that no contest should take place outside of the election year, both contests ended up compressed in a six day period between January 3 and January 8, 2008. [Notice that no one is mentioning the Wyoming Republican caucuses on January 5, still.] This was likely the motivation for the law change last January (described below in the text from the unpublished post); to codify an exemption for Iowa. In other words, there is some room for ex post facto maneuvering.

...but it is dangerous (from the perspective of the Granite state) and New Hampshire will never do anything to jeopardize its position. The key in all of this is that New Hampshire secretary of state, Bill Gardner holds all the power. The state is able to avoid any partisan squabbles in the General Court because the decision on the timing of the primary bypasses the legislature altogether and is in the secretary of state's hands. New Hampshire is much better equipped to move at the last minute than any other state.

Unpublished Post from January 8, 2010:

From the AP:
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire lawmakers hope to end any doubt about the state's intent to continue holding the first presidential primary.

The state House is voting Wednesday on whether to give the secretary of state wider latitude in setting the primary date. That would help protect the state's tradition of being first.

State Rep. Jim Splaine is sponsoring the bill. The measure will go to the Senate if the House approves it and is widely expected to become law.
Maddeningly limited in the scope of its information, isn't it?

The details of the changes in Rep. Jim Splaine's bill (HB 341) before the New Hampshire House of Representatives are below. As it is under current law, the New Hampshire secretary of state has the ability to set the date of the Granite state's presidential primary, and that law requires that the primary be at least a week before any other similar contest.

The change?

Actually, this is the same bill that Splaine introduced during the 2009 legislative session and it just carried over to 2010. Here's what we had to say about the General Court's efforts during the early spring of 2009:

The bottom line is that when the legislature makes a change to the law concerning the presidential primary, it is typically couched in terms of 1) a change in the duties of the secretary of state on the matter and 2) to protect the state's position in the nomination process. And that's what they've done with the law below.

Here's is the New Hampshire law as it stands now:
"Presidential Primary Election. The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous. Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose."
The real meat and potatoes here is the seven day cushion that New Hampshire requires between its primary and any other "similar election." Similar election has usually meant another primary, but the Democratic Party's rules for delegate selection initially placed the Nevada caucuses in between Iowa and New Hampshire and raised the issue of other states' caucuses challenging New Hampshire's primacy. The changes called for in HB 341 take care of that, though (Changes in Bold):
"Presidential Primary Election. The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, or holds a caucus or in the interpretation of the secretary of state holds any contest at which delegates are chosen for the national conventions, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous. Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose. Any caucus of a state first held before 1975 shall not be affected by this provision."
Seven day cushion? Check.

Protection from interloping caucuses? Check.

Exception for Iowa? Check.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

The 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (12/20/10)

With the Nevada GOP's action last week -- setting the date of the party's 2012 presidential caucuses -- the big board is in need of an update. Here again are the guidelines for reading the calendar from the last update from June:
  1. Caucus states are italicized while primary states are not. Several caucus states are missing from the list because they have not formalized the date on which their contests will be held in 2012. Colorado appears because the caucuses dates there are set by the state, whereas a state like Alaska has caucuses run by the state parties and as such do not have their dates codified in state law.
  2. States that have changed dates appear twice (or more) on the calendar; once by the old date and once by the new date. The old date will be struck through while the new date will be color-coded with the amount of movement (in days) in parentheses. States in green are states that have moved to earlier dates on the calendar and states in red are those that have moved to later dates. Arkansas, for example, has moved its 2012 primary and moved it back 104 days from its 2008 position.
2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

Monday, January 16, 2012: Iowa caucuses*

Tuesday, January 24
: New Hampshire*

Saturday, January 28: Nevada caucuses*, South Carolina*

A note on the placement of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Tuesday, January 31
: Florida

Tuesday, February 7 (Super Tuesday): Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Montana Republican caucuses, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah

Saturday, February 11: Louisiana

Tuesday, February 14: Maryland, Virginia

Saturday, February 18: Nevada Republican caucuses (-28)

Tuesday, February 21: Hawaii Republican caucuses (+87), Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 28: Arizona**, Michigan***

Tuesday, March 6: Massachusetts***, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont

Tuesday, March 13: Mississippi

Tuesday, March 20: Colorado caucuses****, Illinois (-42)

Tuesday, April 24: Pennsylvania

Tuesday, May 8: Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia

Tuesday, May 15: Nebraska, Oregon

Tuesday, May 22: Arkansas (-104), Idaho, Kentucky

Tuesday, June 5: Montana (GOP -119), New Mexico***** and South Dakota

*New Hampshire law calls for the Granite state to hold a primary on the second Tuesday of March or seven days prior to any other similar election, whichever is earlier. Florida is first now, so New Hampshire would be a week earlier at the latest. Traditionally, Iowa has gone on the Monday a week prior to New Hampshire. For the time being we'll wedge South Carolina in on the Saturday between New Hampshire and Florida, but these are just guesses at the moment. Any rogue states could cause a shift.

**In Arizona the governor can use his or her proclamation powers to move the state's primary to a date on which the event would have an impact on the nomination. In 2004 and 2008 the primary was moved to the first Tuesday in February.

***Massachusetts and Michigan are the only states that passed a frontloading bill prior to 2008 that was not permanent. The Bay state reverts to its first Tuesday in March date in 2012 while Michigan will fall back to the fourth Tuesday in February.

****The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties have the option to move their caucuses from the third Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February.

*****The law in New Mexico allows the parties to decide when to hold their nominating contests. The Democrats have gone in early February in the last two cycles, but the GOP has held steady in June. They have the option of moving however.

1. Since the Nevada caucuses on both sides of the aisle are given a privileged position -- ahead of the window in which all non-exempt states can hold delegate selection events -- it is more difficult to tabulate how much change there was/will be between the state's 2008 and 2012 positions. This is also true because the state parties are setting caucus dates and are not subject to laws as in primary states where the date is set in stone. In other words, they have a bit more freedom to choose the dates of their contests. What appears above for Nevada assumes that if the GOP had not chosen the February 18, 2012 date in their meeting last week, the state would have continued to hold mid-January caucus meetings (the third Saturday in January to be precise). As such, the Nevada GOP dropped back by four weeks.

2. There are still 18 non-exempt states (between Florida and Arizona/Michigan on the calendar above) that will have to shift the dates on which their primaries are held to come into compliance with the both national parties' sets of rules governing delegate selection. These states continue to be the ones to watch once state legislatures convene in early 2011.

3. You can read more on the potential calendar movement in Molly Ball's article at Politico. You might even see a comment or two from yours truly in there somewhere.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nevada GOP Sets 2012 Presidential Caucuses Date

From Politico:
"The Nevada Republican Executive Committee voted Wednesday to hold the party's 2012 presidential caucus on February 18, a decision that could make GOP voters in the "First in the West" state third in line to vote for their party's next nominee."
The February 18, 2012 date for the Republican caucuses in the Silver state is aligned with where the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee had Nevada slated on their calendar for the Democratic nomination. I'm less surprised by the setting of the date than I am by the timing of it all. The Nevada Republican Party is not taking the wait-and-see approach that Iowa and New Hampshire (or even South Carolina Republicans) typically take for setting the dates on which their delegate selection events are held. Those states let all the other states that are going to move make their moves and then react. For various reasons -- the state parties, not state legislatures, control the date setting power in Iowa and South Carolina and the New Hampshire secretary of state holds that power in the Granite state -- those earliest of states are better able to move than other states. Of course, it helps to get an exemption from the national parties as well. The Nevada Republican Party is acting as if it does not have that privilege by setting their caucuses date this early in the 2012 cycle.

There is precedence for this, however. Nevada Republicans moved their first round contests to February 2008 (basically where they were in 2004) in March 2007, but quickly changed that a month later to align their contest with the January 19 timing of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. Again, without having to filter this date-setting decision through the state government -- state legislature and governor -- state parties have much more leeway to shift the dates on which their, typically, caucuses are held. They can revisit the date with much more freedom than the state governmental apparatus.

That isn't to say that Nevada will or won't move again ahead of 2012, but until some other states, especially those eighteen February states* that have to change their state laws to come into compliance with the new national party rules, make a move, an asterisk should be placed next to Nevada for now. FHQ will use pencil for the moment. Once the state legislatures begin convening next and start addressing this issue, we can maybe shift to chiseling it into stone for 2012.

*That count includes one primary currently scheduled for January, Florida.

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