Friday, March 13, 2020

Louisiana Shifts Presidential Primary Back to June 20 Amid Rising Coronavirus Concerns

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) on Friday moved the planned presidential primary in the Pelican state from April 4 to June 20 as the reach of the coronavirus stretches beyond sports and culture into election administration. Ardoin made the change citing "emergency suspension or delays and rescheduling" of elections because of the possibility of an emergency or disaster.

While it is not unusual for plans to be finalized by state parties (in coordination with the national parties) for delegate selection processes in the year of a presidential nomination, it is unusual for state governments to make these types of changes. But then again, Covid-19 has, to understate things, made things unusual in 2020.

The biggest things here are that, first of all, the June 20 date falls outside of the window the DNC has established for state parties to conduct primaries or caucuses. That window closes on June 9, the second Tuesday in June. That deadline is why the District of Columbia Council changed the date of their third Tuesday in June primary in 2019; to comply with the DNC rules.

But secondly, the change also runs up against the logistics of delegate selection ahead of the convention. June 20 is the last date on which any states are selecting any delegates -- filling slots allocated to candidates through primaries and caucuses -- for the national convention on the Democratic side. It is one thing for the selection process to reach its conclusion just 23 days before the conventions gavels in. But it is another for the the state party in Louisiana to take results that may not be finalized on the day of the primary and then choose delegates based on those results. That would likely occur within three weeks of the convention.

That is late.

The Republican National Committee by comparison requires the delegate selection process to be completed by 45 days before the national convention. But the Republican National Convention does not begin until August 24, 65 days after the new June 20 Louisiana primary. The change in Pelican state does not defy that rule, but it does violate the Republican window that closes to contests on June 13, the second Saturday in June.

But again, this virus has thrust the world into uncharted territory and that now includes primary elections administration. The question now is whether Louisiana is the last or just the first state to make a change to their primary date as this situation evolves.

The Louisiana primary date will be changed on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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