Thursday, February 23, 2023

Idaho Committee Advances May Primary Bill

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee made quick work of legislation to move the presidential primary in the Gem state to May on Wednesday, February 22. 

The panel advanced HB 138 to the House floor with a Do Pass recommendation. Bill sponsor Rep. Dustin Manwaring (R-29th, Pocatello) made the case to the committee that consolidating the stand-alone March presidential primary with the primaries for other offices in May would save the state $2.7 million. And those savings were something Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane (R) reiterated in supporting the legislation according to the Idaho Capital Sun.
“As I came into office and began working on the budget for the office, this was one of the biggest things that stood out,” McGrane told legislators Wednesday. “So we started asking the question on what is the utility of what we are trying to do? I think Rep. Manwaring framed it very well — we just haven’t seen the return on investment.”
Indeed, it was always going to be a difficult proposition to draw presidential candidates to Idaho for a March primary that often got overshadowed by other, more delegate-rich contests. But with Michigan already having vacated that second Tuesday in March date for a spot in the pre-window on the Democratic party calendar, and Hawaii potentially shifting to a primary a week earlier, Idaho stands to actually be able to draw Republican candidates in March 2024. That is especially true in light of the fact that neighboring Washington also has a primary on the same date and will be the biggest delegate prize on a surprisingly thin date so early on the calendar. There would be more delegates at stake in the Pacific and Mountain northwest than in Mississippi, the only other state currently occupying the second Tuesday in March. 

But those considerations seem to have taken a back seat to the cost considerations and the likely turnout gain for the May primary even with presidential primary that may fall after the nomination has been wrapped up. 

As noted in the previous post on this bill, it still is not clear that this legislation builds back the same legal infrastructure that existed in 2011 when the presidential primary was wiped from the May primary portion of the electoral code and eliminated it altogether. The bill that created the separate presidential primary in 2012 (for the 2016 cycle) did not affect the May primary. However, that appeared to be of little concern to the State Affairs Committee on Wednesday. And it remains to be seen if that will be problematic to members on the floor of the state House. 

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

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