Tuesday, February 2, 2021

New York Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to June, but...

For the last several cycles, the scheduling of the New York presidential primary has fallen into a regular rhythm. Following the end of any presidential election year, the date of the primary -- wherever it has been scheduled in the previous cycle -- reverts to an early February date that is non-compliant with national party rules. 

That routine is no different as the 2020 cycle transitions to 2024

What initially was set before the Covid-19 outbreak as a late April primary date has once again been automatically pushed back to the first Tuesday in February, the day after the (would-be) Iowa caucuses (if the scheduling of the past few cycles carries over to 2024). But that has been the placeholder for the presidential primary -- the spring primary -- in the Empire state since the 2008 cycle. One could argue, and FHQ has, that this forces state legislators to revisit the date of the primary every cycle and to consider alternatives that might be advantageous to the state. The clearer argument just jumps to the latter explanation. Legislators in New York do not need to be forced, but rather they collectively and voluntarily reexamine the date of the presidential primary in the light of the national party rules that have been released during the midterm election year. 

But now, newly introduced legislation would disrupt this regular rhythm of the last decade and consolidate the presidential primary with the primaries for state offices. S 1819 would eliminate the spring primary language and move the date of the presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in June.

Astute readers and calendar watchers will no doubt spot the problem with the legislation introduced and sponsored by two Democratic legislators, Sen. James Skoufis (D-39th) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-27th). Yes, the plan would move the New York presidential primary out of the early calendar problem area  near or before the four carve-out states. But it would create the same problem on the back end of the calendar. The late June primary was fine in 2020, however, only because of latitude provided to the states/state parties due to the pandemic. Assuming there is no global outbreak in 2024 and that the national party rules on timing carry over to the coming presidential primary season, then a fourth Tuesday in June primary in the Empire state would also be non-compliant. 

Now, obviously this has not stopped New York legislators in the past. Again, see the description of that "regular rhythm" above. They could as they have over the last several cycles schedule the primary for an alternative (and compliant) time, but if this legislation passes and is signed into law, there would also be the matter of the state primaries tethered to the presidential primary. Would legislators move the entire consolidated primary to an earlier date or would they merely split them again, shifting the presidential primary alone to different point on the calendar? 

That remains to be seen should this legislation actually make it through the legislative branch and end up signed into law. But the one thing that is for certain is that it would be tempting from a cost savings perspective to keep the two sets of contests together. And that is likely the main thrust of this legislation.

A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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