Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bill Emerges to Shift All Missouri Primaries to June

Yesterday, Rep. Jay Barnes (R-114th, Cole) introduced legislation (HB 694) to move the Show-Me state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the second Tuesday after the first Monday in June. The legislation also includes a provision to shift the date of the primaries for state and local offices from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in August to coincide with the presidential primary in June. Missouri is another state with primaries at opposite ends of the presidential year primary calendar; an early presidential primary and a late primary for state and local offices.

As FHQ has discussed most recently in the case of Massachusetts, but elsewhere also, states in this position are receiving pressure from both ends. There is pressure from the national parties to move February presidential primaries back into March and into compliance with the parties' rules. And there is also pressure from the federal mandate laid out in the MOVE act to move late state and local primaries earlier in order to print and distribute ballots to military and civilian personnel overseas in a timely manner. A trend is now beginning to emerge among states and territories in this position. Legislators are introducing legislation to combine the primaries at a point in time that complies with both sets of rules and saves the state the money used on a separate presidential primary in the process. There is no estimate of the savings in the case of this bill and Missouri, but considering similarly-sized Alabama estimates its savings based on eliminating the separate presidential primary at around $4 million, the total is likely at least a couple of million dollars.

Though the bill is sponsored by a member of the majority party, Republicans on the relevant elections committees in both the Missouri House and Senate have put forward bills to move the state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. It is unclear how likely this new bill is to move forward given the seeming institutional suppost the other two bills have. The cost savings may end up being tempting to legislators, but they will have to weigh that against the influence the state may lose if the primary is moved back to June.

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