Saturday, March 12, 2011

Public Hearing on Presidential Primary Bill in Connecticut Draws No Input from State Parties

According to this report by Mark Pazniokas in The Connecticut Mirror, the public hearing on HB 6532 on Friday drew no response from either the Democratic or Republican Parties in the Nutmeg state. As the article mentions, the state has to move the date on which it holds its presidential primary in 2012 to comply with the national parties' rules on delegate selection event timing. And that is exactly what this bill is seeking to accomplish, moving the primary from the first Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in March.

The thing that seems to be frustrating Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill is that the state has some options to maximize its delegates based on both parties' delegate selection rules and the state parties have yet to "weigh in", as she said, on whether moving further back for bonus delegates is a worthwhile pursuit. On the Democratic side of the ledger...

If the state delays its primary until April, it will be rewarded with a 10 percent bonus in the number of delegates. Wait until May 1, the bonus doubles to 20 percent.

And if the state can manage to convince two neighboring states to agree on a regional primary date on or after March 20, it will receive an additional bonus of 15 percent.

But that is only part of the equation. Though the RNC does not have the same incentive system, the national party is allowing state parties to decide how they would like to allocate their delegates if they hold contests after April 1. Connecticut Republicans could maintain their winner-take-all allocation they have used in recent election cycles. That tradition would be affected depending on how the state legislature acts on this bill.

The argument could be made that by not voicing an opinion at the hearing the two state parties are in support of the move back to March. Could be. Merrill says it is "all about being relevant" and for a state the size of Connecticut relevance may well be defined as holding a delegate selection event prior to the point at which the nomination has been decided as opposed to attempting to maximize delegates by holding a primary that may fall after that point.

NOTE: As an aside, I think it is noteworthy that the DNC has contacted secretaries of state in the non-compliant states like Connecticut to remind them of the window of time in which states can hold contests.

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