Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Battle Lines Being Drawn in Wisconsin?

The Government Accountability Board in Wisconsin over the last couple of days has telegraphed its desire for different primary dates in the Badger state. At this point, that mostly revolves around changing the date of the September primary for state and local offices in order to comply with the MOVE act to ensure that military personnel overseas receive ballots in a timely manner. However, the issue of the timing of the presidential primary has been broached as well.

Recall that the presidential primary in Wisconsin is currently scheduled for the third Tuesday in February, a date that would be in violation of national party delegate selection rules if it remains unchanged. From the AP on the matter of the presidential primary yesterday:
[Government Accountability Board director Kevin]Kennedy's letter said the staff also considered holding the 2012 presidential primary after March 1 at the recommendation of the national Republican and Democratic parties. The presidential primary is now held on the third Tuesday in February.

Local election officials suggested moving the presidential primary to April during spring non-partisan elections. To save money, they also suggested holding the primary for the spring election during the November general election, starting in 2012.

Kennedy said the board will discuss presidential primary changes later.
Some of that same sentiment carried over into comments made by members of the board today. Moving the date back to April would return the Badger state presidential primary to the position it held in cycles prior to the the 2004 cycle when the primary date was moved forward into February (see 2000 presidential primary calendar). The interesting thing that emerged from the discussion today was that the board was not going to make proposals that would affect the flexibility of the legislature to make a move on the primary. Again from the AP:
[Government Accountability Board elections specialist Katie] Mueller said staff had also looked into changing to the date of the presidential primary election, on the recommendation of the national Democratic and Republican parties. Clerks initially suggested moving the presidential primary to the same day as the spring election. They also suggested holding the spring primary on the same day as the November general election. That idea was scrapped after staff learned the Wisconsin Constitution prohibits holding any judicial elections during a partisan general election.

Mueller said any future proposals made to change the presidential primary dates would not affect the 2012 presidential primary.
The November primary idea hints at a way for the state to save money by combining elections. And it is noteworthy that that discussion was never taken in the direction of combining the presidential with those April local elections like Director Kennedy had mentioned yesterday.

That last line also really requires a touch more explication. It could mean that Wisconsin has no plans to change the date of the primary, keeping it out of compliance with national party rules. That, of course, is something that will be up to the legislature to decide. But that could also mean that the Government Accountability Board won't make a recommendation on moving the 2012 presidential primary and will simply defer to the legislature to make the decision. The Wisconsin legislature can opt to wait, though, considering its session is year-round. It's something to keep an eye on.

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