Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bill Eliminating Presidential Primary After 2016 Clears Arizona House

The Arizona House on Wednesday, February 10, passed HB 2567 by a vote of 37-22. The legislation would appropriate state funds to fully fund the 2016 presidential preference election in the Grand Canyon state but also eliminate the election in future cycles.

The impetus behind the move appears to be budgetary, but there may also be some secondary implications. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan made clear in a state House Appropriations Committee hearing that, first, the statewide election carries a cost of nearly $10 million and, second, is a tab that should be picked up by the state parties in Arizona. The secretary called the possibilities for state parties absent state funding "limitless". However, that ignores the fact that state parties in a state as large as Arizona do not typically caucus or spend upwards of $10 million for a party-run primary. Rather than limitless, then, the likely outcome is a shift to a caucus/convention system to select delegates in the presidential nomination process.

A similar bill was proposed in 2012, but went nowhere. That effort, like the current one, had the support of county elections administrators in the states, who have long supported ceding state control of the nominating contest to the parties.

While this bill is still early in the legislative process, it could lead to a potentially noteworthy change for the 2020 cycle. If the bill passes, is signed into law and repeals the presidential preference election, that effectively makes Arizona a caucus state.

It was not that long ago that Arizona Democrats pushed for caucuses as a means of joining the carve-out states at the beginning of the primary calendar. The Arizona pitch to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee in 2006 included plans to shift to caucuses. At the time the national party, in an attempt to diversify the primary electorate on the early calendar, wanted to add a southern state and a western state as well as a primary state and a caucus state (that at the time could be put in a slot in front of New Hampshire on the calendar). South Carolina gained the southern primary spot and Nevada was slotted into the western caucus spot.

Nevada has had its share of issues on both sides of the political aisle in the last two presidential nomination cycles. That, in turn, has led to some discussion about whether the Silver state is on the chopping block as an early state. If the national parties -- both of them, not just the DNC -- want a western caucus state up front and want to replace Nevada, an Arizona caucus might provide an alternative.

File that one away for 2017-2018, though.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing news of the Arizona bill along.

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