Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Thursday Presidential Primary Option is Being Considered in Georgia

Correction: Clever though this would have seemed, the below move, if the Georgia General Assembly chooses to act on it, would actually be a violation of the both national parties' delegate selection rules. It is incorrect that a March 1 primary would violate Democratic Party rules but not the Republican rules. [There would be no difference between a March 1 primary and one on the first Tuesday in February where the primary is currently positioned. Both would be in violation of the rules.] If the parties' rules are to be followed, all non-exempt states will have to hold their contests on or after the first Tuesday in March. That's still a pretty big if at this point in time.

I will post the Democratic and Republican delegate selection rules in separate posts and give links to them a prominent position in the left sidebar under the 2012 presidential primary calendar. That way we'll all have a handy guide.

Original Post:
John Tures, an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College writing for the Southern Political Report today, indicates that there are several options that are being considered by state legislators for the Peach state's 2012 presidential primary. There are some gaps in the article,* but the nugget that is most interesting is that one of the options that is being considered is to move the state's primary to a Thursday. FHQ took this to mean that the Republican-controlled General Assembly would move the primary back into March, but schedule the election for the Thursday before the party-preferred Super Tuesday on March 6.

In other words, the proposal -- and there is no bill that has been introduced in either state legislative chamber to reflect this as of yet -- would position the Georgia primary on March 1. Here is an interesting quirk to that. When you combine that particular date with the aforementioned fact that Georgia's General Assembly (and the governor) are Republican-controlled, you end up with a violation of Democratic Party rules on delegate selection, but not on the Republican side. The Democratic Party rules set the opening date of the window in which delegate selection events (primaries and caucuses) can be held for the first Tuesday in March. That's March 6. The Republican Party rules are more ambiguous. Those rules don't specify a particular date. They simply say that no non-exempt state can go prior to March.


Yes, this breaks with the traditional Tuesday election day, but it also gives Georgia a leg up on other, non-exempt states. That assumes that all the other non-exempt states currently in violation of the national parties' rules on event timing change their laws to come into compliance. FHQ still thinks that is a big IF at this point, but it would carve out a little piece of unique territory for Georgia should the state government actually proceed with this plan.

*The fact that going earlier than many other states is an option implies that the state legislature would be actively moving the primary to a point on the calendar in violation of the national parties' rules on presidential delegate selection. Current state law already has the state positioned early and in violation of those rules.

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Anonymous said...

Your observation that the article had some gaps was putting it nicely. Thank you for focusing on the fact that a legislature controlled by one party could put the other party in violation of its national rules.

If a situation like this was to play out, would the options available to the Georgia Democrats be to hold their own nominating process on their own dime (such as a caucus) or risk being penalized by the national Democratic Party?

It would be difficult for the national party to penalize Georgia if they didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Hypothetical situations like these make it more clear that the current nominating system needs reform.

Clever indeed.

Josh Putnam said...

At the very least, it would put Georgia Democrats in an uncomfortable position. They would end up being in a situation not unlike where Florida Democrats found themselves in 2008. [Of course, it should be noted that Florida's state legislative Democrats voted to move the primary along with Republicans. That made their "but the Republicans are forcing us to do it" argument somewhat hollow.]

I would be inclined to think that if Georgia Democrats were not supportive of the move when and if it makes its way through the General Assembly, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee would grant them a waiver for just a few days. March 1 is a lot different than early February. Plus, since the nomination isn't contested, it may be that the DNC just lets it slide no matter where the primary ends up (if it is in violation).

Some argue for reform, but really this sort of action, if it comes to fruition, just points out a discrepancy between the two parties' sets of rules. The Democrats named a specific date for the opening of their window, and the Republicans did not. The national parties have to represent a united front on these rules if they want the states to follow them.

...or that helps gain compliance anyway (or would if the parties had to make their case in court).

astrojob said...

"When you combine that particular date with the aforementioned fact that Georgia's General Assembly (and the governor) are Republican-controlled, you end up with a violation of Democratic Party rules on delegate selection, but not on the Republican side."

Wait, is that actually the case? When the RNC passed the new rules, National Journal posted this memo:


which said that the new window would begin on the first Tuesday of March. Is it actually March 1st?

Josh Putnam said...

I rushed this out this morning assuming I had that rule right in my head. But apparently I didn't and should have checked ahead of time.

It's funny, I actually have gone back and forth on this point with someone at Politico and have muddied the waters of my mind as a result. I had this rule down at one point and have subsequently opened the door to doubt.

I'll make the correction and put the relevant section (concerning the timing of delegate selection events) in a separate post so we have a guide.

...something I should have done long ago.

Thanks for the catch.