Friday, February 3, 2023

Competing Oregon Senate Bill Would Move Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

Earlier in January, a bill was introduced in the Oregon state Senate to move the state's consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- up to Super Tuesday. 

SB 499 is not the first legislation in recent years in the Beaver state to propose uprooting the primary from its traditional third Tuesday in May position, and apparently it will not be the last. Now, there is a competing bill that aims to more fully address the obstacles that have stood in the way of past attempts. 

Senator James Manning, Jr. (D-7th, North Eugene) this past week filed SB 804. Like SB 499, the new measure proposes shifting the Oregon consolidated primary up to the first Tuesday in March in presidential years. Keeping the primaries consolidated saves the state from having to foot the bill for two elections in the first half of the year. However, Manning's bill would also move the primary back a week in midterm years to the fourth Tuesday in May. 

Additionally, SB 804 would push the beginning of the Oregon legislative session in presidential primary years to the beginning of May (rather than the beginning of February). This is a common snag that legislation hits in states with presidential primaries tethered to a later, consolidated primaries. Legislators in those situations have tended to shy away from scheduling a primary to occur during a legislative session. It would require them to raise money and campaign during a time when they are changing policy and making budgetary decisions, something that could give the impression of pay-for-play corruption. A March primary in presidential years combined with a May start to that year's legislative session would avoid the bulk of the most direct, possible conflict of interest opportunities. 

That combination of changes to the existing law would smooth the path for a presidential primary date change -- one that brings Oregon voters closer to a position to weigh in on the nominations before the races are effectively over. However, if these sorts of exercises in other states are any guide, then the earlier candidate filing period needed to accommodate the new, earlier primary election may potentially draw the ire of election administrators across the Beaver state. If the altered filing period overlaps too much with elections officials finalizing their work from the off-year election (in the year before a presidential election), then those elections officials could balk at the proposed change. 

So, if one were to handicap the odds of either of these bills passing and becoming law, SB 804 likely stands a better shot. But that does not mean it is out of the woods yet. Neither bill has a confirmed committee hearing as of this time. 

This legislation has been added to FHQ's updated 2024 presidential primary calendar


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