Friday, March 20, 2015

Efforts to Cancel 2016 Presidential Primary Move Forward in Kansas

The legislation to cancel the Kansas presidential primary for the sixth consecutive cycle advanced in both state legislative chambers this week.

Despite some pushback to postponing the presidential primary another four years in a state Senate committee hearing, the Committee on Ethics and Elections favorably recommended that SB 239 pass the chamber. And on the House side of the capitol, a less contentious committee hearing (with Republican Party of Kansas support) yielded the same result. HB 2398 was also recommended for passage by the state House Committee on Elections.

This is a move that could be layered into the discussion of states facing the elimination of presidential primaries due to budgetary constraints. Unlike Louisiana and Massachusetts, however, this has become a quadrennial rite in Kansas over the last two plus decades. The standard operating procedure has been to strike out the coming election year from the statute and replace it with the next subsequent presidential election year. For example, the original legislation in Kansas in both chambers strikes 2016 and replaces it with 2020. State legislators do this every four years in the Sunflower state.

The bill that will be considered on the floor of the state Senate continues to follow that path. In the House, legislators are now taking a different approach. The bill that passed through the House Committee on Elections was amended to eliminate the presidential primary altogether in lieu of going through the motions every four years.

Kansas has been a caucus state for years, but there was still a presidential primary option available in state law (pending funding). That option just has not been funded over the last twenty years. If the House version prevails, that presidential primary option will cease to be, making Kansas a permanent caucus/convention state for presidential nominations and not a de facto caucus state.

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