Showing posts with label 2023 state legislative session. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2023 state legislative session. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Idaho Presidential Primary Inching Toward Move to May

Time is winding down in the 2023 Idaho legislative session, and it looks like all the pieces may come together for the presidential primary to move back to May, where it stood for much of the history of the post-reform era. 

The filing of a trailing bill last week to amend H 138 cleared the way for the original bill, intended to eliminate the stand-alone March presidential primary and merge it with the primaries for other offices in May, to move forward in the Senate. On Tuesday, March 21, H 138 came off of the purgatory 14th order calendar and was read again on the Senate floor for a second time. A third and final reading is all that stands in the way of Senate passage.

And S 1186, the amending bill to add the necessary legal infrastructure to the actually place the presidential line on the May primary ballot, cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee with a Do Pass recommendation and no dissenting votes. Both bills -- the entire package of which would end the separate March presidential primary and add it to the May general primary in Idaho -- are now ready to be considered on the floor of Idaho Senate. 

Together, the package would save the state an estimated $2.7 million (from the eliminated extra primary), but the measures would also need to pass both the state Senate and head back (in the case of H 138) to the House in this likely final week of the regular legislative session. Idaho would be just the second state to change primary dates in 2023 and the first to move to a later date on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. Louisiana shifted back a few weeks for 2024 during the 2021 session.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ohio Bill to Move Presidential Primary to May Has Second Committee Hearing

The Ohio legislation to shift the presidential primary in the Buckeye state from March to May had a second hearing before the House Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday, March 21. 

The hearing was short and sweet. Testimony on just three bills was heard and the panel made quick work of them. That included HB 21, the bill introduced by Rep. Daniel Troy (D-23rd, Willowick) to make May the uniform primary position in Ohio regardless of election year. Troy spoke on the measure in late February, but this time, it was Gail E. Garbrandt of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials who gave testimony on behalf  her bipartisan group in support of the legislation. 

Garbrandt echoed many of the points Troy made in the February hearing, espousing the virtues of "election processes and procedures [that] are uniform, consistent, and easily understandable for our voters." But she also made the case about further reducing the burdens on taxpayers and election administrators. The March primary increases costs because the filing deadline falls during the holiday season at the end of the preceding year when overtime pay is often required in order for election officials to meet state-mandated deadlines. 

The committee once again failed to pose any questions to the lone witness, and it remains unclear whether the case has been successfully made to the committee for moving the primary in presidential years. That silence could mean a lot of things. However, it is worth acknowledging the fact that Ohio has managed to pull off primary elections every March since 1996. Proponents of the change push back on the idea of Ohio being a big draw in any of those seven cycles. And while that may be the case, it is also true that seven cycles have created a measure of consistency in the Ohio election calendar that bill supporters would interrupt in order to establish a "uniform, consistent and easily understandable" primary permanently scheduled for May in all years. That may or may not be convincing to the members of Government Oversight.

Connecticut Parties Behind Effort to Move Presidential Primary

The Connecticut Joint Committee on Governmental Administration and Elections convened on Monday, March 20 to conduct initial public hearings for a number of bills, SB 6908 among them. That legislation would shift up the date of the presidential primary in the Nutmeg state to the first Tuesday in April starting in the 2024. 

No votes were taken on the measure, but the testimony given offered insight into the motivation behind the bill. Testifying together, the chairs of the two major state parties supported the move and indicated that it was the potential for greater influence in the presidential nomination process that prompted them to cooperatively help craft the legislation. Nancy DiNardo, the Connecticut Democratic Party chair noted that the change would give the state a "stronger voice in choosing a presidential candidate" and was furthermore "proud to say this legislation is bipartisan."

Connecticut Republican Party Chair Benjamin Proto said that an earlier primary would give Connecticut "more influence within the presidential nominating system as well as to provide voters more engagement within their party and with candidates."

Nowhere in either the oral or written testimony did either mention the current primary date's conflict with Passover in 2024. Instead, the parties were motivated by potential influence rather than that conflict in moving the primary. However, the move would shift the Connecticut presidential primary out of a conflict with the tail end of Passover.

None of this is groundbreaking news. State legislators consider presidential primary bills every year (but particularly in the year before a presidential election) to move contests around. And frequently among the top stated reasons for the legislation being introduced is the quest for more influence in and resources from the presidential nomination process. Often it is a fool's errand because the states that draw that kind of influence are the (protected) earliest states and the next wave is a cluster of contests within which states -- especially smaller ones like Connecticut -- often get lost. 

However, what was noteworthy about the testimony of DiNardo specifically was that she noted that shifting the Connecticut presidential primary to early April would align the election with the primary in New York. Now, either that was a mistake or there have been conversations among Democratic state parties about coordinating a landing spot for the two neighboring states' primaries. There are efforts to move the New York primary. However, none of them target an early April date. Plus, the standard operating procedure in New York for setting the primary date is for that work to be done in the late spring (in the year before a presidential election) in consultation with the state parties in the Empire state. 

Nonetheless, this potential cooperation makes sense. But for Covid, the Connecticut and New York primaries would have coincided in two of the last three cycles. And that sort of subregional cluster of contests would potentially be a bigger draw to candidates than if either state were to go it alone. On the Republican side, an early April position would also allow both Connecticut and New York Republicans to retain their current variations of the winner-take-most rules

Of course, both efforts have to make it through the legislative process first. And the Connecticut push has only just begun. In New York, they are not even that far along. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Fix is in for the Idaho Presidential Primary Bill

The days left in the 2023 regular session are winding down in the Idaho legislature. The body is targeting Friday, March 24 as its 75th and final day before it adjourns sine die. 

And one of the bills stuck in legislative limbo is H 138, legislation that would eliminate the separate March presidential primary election and merge it with the primaries for other offices in May. The measure had been on a fast track, passing the state House and getting through committee on the Senate side in the span of a few weeks. However, once it got to the state Senate floor, the bill was quickly shunted to the body's 14th order -- a working section of the chamber's calendar -- to be amended. 

The necessity of amendments was clear early on in the life of H 138. The measure lived up to the intent of its sponsors by eliminating the separate presidential primary and saving the state an estimated $2.7 million dollars on the budget in the process. But it failed to build back the requisite infrastructure that existed before 2012 when a consolidated primary, including the presidential preference vote, was the norm in Idaho. FHQ brought this issue up in its initial rundown of H 138 and the conflict was also raised in testimony to the Senate State Affairs Committee in a hearing before the panel passed the bill onto the floor for consideration. 

Of course, there is a richer politics behind the legislation as well. Cost savings are one thing. Incomplete provisions to match the true intent of the bill are another. But there is additional intra-party tension among Republicans in and out of Idaho that underpins the measure as well. The state Republican Party fought the shift from March to May in the Senate committee hearing and the Trump campaign is keeping a watchful eye on the move and other procedures Idaho may use in 2024 as well. That confluence of factors -- the limited number of days left in the legislative session, the need for amendment, the Republican infighting -- highlighted the fact that H 138's trip to the 14th order may have been more political than anything; that it was a sentence of purgatory for the short remainder of the term. 

However, that has not necessarily turned out to be the case. The same state Senate committee has introduced a separate bill -- S 1186 -- that amends and augments the original bill, adding the necessary provisions to include the presidential preference vote on the May consolidated primary ballot. 

And although a fix is in, that does not mean that the effort to consolidate the presidential primary with those elections in May is out of the woods yet. There will be a flurry of activity in the session's apparent final week, and there are two bills that will now have to pass the state Senate and one -- S 1186 -- that will have to go over to the House if it does pass the Senate (despite all of the other attendant conflicts described above). It is entirely possible that all of that gets done before Friday, March 24. It is also possible that one or both bills get derailed along the way, pushed to the back burner in the waning days of the session in favor of more pressing legislation. 

The bottom line on the precipice of that final week in Idaho? There is a workable path forward for a pair of bills now to eliminate the separate presidential primary in the Gem state and add the presidential preference vote to the existing May primary. But obstacles remain. 

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


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

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Connecticut Bill Introduced to Move Presidential Primary

A committee bill would move the Connecticut presidential primary up a few weeks on the 2024 calendar. 

The Connecticut Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections introduced SB 6908 on Wednesday, March 15. The measure would shift the presidential primary in the Nutmeg state from the last Tuesday in April to the first Tuesday in April.

Like a number of other states with presidential primaries scheduled for late April 2024, many of which have shared a primary date in recent cycles, the Connecticut primary falls during the observance of Passover. Unlike many of those other states, however, the Connecticut primary falls at the tail end of Passover week rather than at the beginning of it as is the case with elections in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. But the conflict presented is just the same. 

The Maryland primary appears to be headed to a point later on the calendar, whereas Connecticut legislators are eyeing an earlier date that would avoid Passover and fall just after Easter in 2024. And there is no early voting conflict with Easter that would arise out of that because Connecticut does not have early, in-person voting. The move would align the Connecticut presidential primary with the primary in Wisconsin at the beginning of April.

All of the states but Delaware with late April primary dates scheduled for 2024 at this time either have active legislation or have signaled that legislation is forthcoming to resolve the Passover conflict. But vacating those slots at the end of April will lengthen an already three week long gap between Wisconsin and the April 23 primaries. That gap would stretch beyond a month if all of those states move, and create a second lengthy break in the steady stream of electoral results in at least the Republican nomination race. There will also likely be another break in the action earlier on the calendar between the Nevada primary on February 6 and the Michigan primary on February 27. If there are no electoral results during those periods, then something else will fill the void.

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


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Maryland Presidential Primary Move Passes State Senate

During what Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-46th, Baltimore City) deemed on Tuesday, March 14 to be a "busy, busy work week" for the Maryland state Senate, the body took up SB 379 for final passage. 

The measure would not only make a number of changes to election administration, but it would also push back the date of the consolidated primary, including the presidential primary, in the Old Line state to the second Tuesday in May. The three week delay in conducting the election next year has been necessitated by the the conflict the contest would have with the Passover holiday on the fourth Tuesday in April in 2024. That would schedule the Maryland presidential primary on May 14, a date on which the Nebraska and West Virginia primaries already fall. 

In the midst of Tuesday's session, the state Senate took up SB 379 as part of a calendar of bills on their third and final reading before passage. And the body wasted little time in dispensing with the legislation. The clerk read the title, followed by no discussion on the measure and a final vote that passed 33-11 along party lines (with majority Democrats in favor). 

The bill now heads to the state House for its consideration. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Ranked Choice Voting in 2024 Presidential Primaries, Updated (March 2023)

One electoral reform that FHQ has touched on in the past and has increasingly popped up on the presidential primary radar is ranked choice voting (RCV). And let us be clear, while the idea has worked its way into state-level legislation and state party delegate selection plans, widespread adoption of the practice is not yet at hand. 

However, there has been some RCV experimentation on a modest scale in the delegate allocation process primarily in small states. And that has opened the door to its consideration in a broader swath of states across the country. States, whether state parties or state legislators, are seeing some value in allowing for a redistribution of votes based on a voter's preferences to insure, in the case of presidential primaries, that every voter has a more direct say in the resulting delegate allocation. 

That is apparent in legislation that has been proposed in state legislatures across the country as they have begun convening their 2023 sessions. Again, RCV is not sweeping the nation, as the map below of current legislation to institute the method in the presidential nomination process will attest. There are a lot of unshaded states. But if RCV was adopted across those states where it has been passed (Maine), where it has been used in Democratic state party-run processes (Alaska, Kansas and North Dakota), and where it is being considered by legislators in 2023 then it would affect the allocation of nearly a third of Democratic delegates and a little more than a quarter of Republican delegates. That is not nothing. 

Since the last update in late January, an additional 11 bills have been introduced in seven states -- Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont -- to establish RCV in at least presidential primaries. Only one bill to create RCV among all of those introduced has even passed a chamber, and that was one of the handful of bills in Hawaii. It passed with an effective date in the year 3000. That is not a typo. It was purposefully set for well into the future to spur further conversation about the measure in the state Senate.

The 2023 session remains young, but there has not been a lot of legislative momentum behind the efforts establish RCV. 

However, there has been some negative momentum. Several pro-RCV bills ended up bottled up in committee and are either dead or effectively so. That includes the four bills in Virginia and the two considered in New Hampshire. In addition, legislation to ban RCV has found limited but greater success than the measures that have sought to create RCV systems. The South Dakota bill to prohibit RCV winded its way through the legislature and is on the governor's desk for consideration. Other ban bills have been passed by their chamber of origination in Idaho and Montana and another measure to stop RCV usage has been introduced in West Virginia. 

The legislative efforts nationwide continue to have a partisan tint to them. Legislation to create the infrastructure to implement RCV is more likely to be introduced in Democratic-controlled states and if not in blue states, then by Democratic legislators. Introduced measures to ban RCV have been exclusively introduced in Republican-controlled states and by Republican legislators. 

A few notes on bills included and excluded from consideration:

1. The intent was to highlight legislation that would affect presidential primaries. That includes bills that would exclusively cover presidential primaries and those that would impact all or most primaries, including presidential primaries. 

2. FHQ was probably a bit more inclusive than necessary. A handful of the bills listed above while currently active, would not take effect until after 2024. The New York and Oregon legislation is that way. The 2022 New Jersey RCV bill that carried over to the second session in 2023 would not take effect until the January 1 twelve months following the point at which the secretary of state in the Garden state had determined all voting machines were operable for RCV. New Jersey and New York together account for a significant chunk of delegates on the Democratic side and none of those would be impacted by this legislation in 2024. [The newly added Oregon bill falls into this category as well.]

3. Some bills were not included. There is an RCV ban bill in North Dakota as well. But there is no state-run presidential primary in the Peace Garden state. That is true of the efforts in Alaska to repeal RCV there. If the state-run RCV process were to end, the Democratic Party could still utilize the practice in a state-run presidential nominating contest. Similarly, ban legislation that sought to prohibit RCV only in local elections -- as in Minnesota -- were also excluded. Finally, if RCV was tethered to a broader push to move to a nonpartisan primary like in New Mexico, then that was also left out. It should also be noted that Nevada was left unshaded on the map above. The state Democratic Party used RCV in the early voting portion of the caucuses in 2020, but not across the entire process.

4. Hawaii technically fits two categories on the map. Democrats in the Aloha state used RCV in their party-run primary in 2020, but have legislation that combines a switch to RCV and the use of a state-run presidential primary as well as separate legislation to establish a presidential primary and move to RCV in all elections (including any presidential primary that may be created). 

Kansas and Maine also fall into two categories. Kansas Democrats used RCV in their party-run process in 2020, and there is also legislation to add RCV to all primaries in the Sunflower state. That would only matter in the presidential arena if separate legislation creating a presidential primary passes the legislature and is signed in to law. Moreover, there is legislation to return to plurality voting in Maine, but it faces an uphill climb in the Democratic-controlled Pine Tree state.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Indications Rhode Island Will Re-explore Presidential Primary Date

The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island, too, may shift the date on which the Ocean state's presidential primary falls in 2024 because of a conflict with the Passover holiday.
Rep. Rebecca Kislak, D-Providence, has quietly raised the issue behind the scenes with the secretary of state's office and Democratic Party Leadership. She said Thursday she is "confident that over the next days or weeks" she will be able to introduce legislation to move the date.  
"We are exploring the possibility of moving the primary," echoed state Rep. Joseph McNamara, the state Democratic chairman. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said Kislak had briefed him on the problem, and he was open to a legislative fix. 

Secretary of State Gregg Amore also told The Journal: "Yes. It needs legislative action."
Legislators in Maryland are already moving legislation to push the primary in the Old Line state back into May, and in a change prompted not by the Passover conflict, two bills in Pennsylvania (also in conflict with Passover) would shift the primary in the Keystone state up to mid-March. If all of those changes occur, that would leave Delaware alone on the fourth Tuesday in April in 2024, the lone remnant of a subregional mid-Atlantic/northeastern primary that has existed in one form or another since the 2012 cycle

Connecticut has also been a part of that group but because there are five Tuesdays in April in 2024, the differing language of the laws in these states matters. The states with primaries conflicting with Passover specify the fourth Tuesday in April whereas the Connecticut law sets the date of the presidential primary in the Nutmeg state for the last Tuesday of April, the 30th in 2024. That difference has not mattered until now.

In a mark of just how quiet things have been on the calendar front in 2023 (relative to previous cycles), it may be that the Passover conflict could be the impetus for most of the calendar changes in the 2024 cycle. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

UPDATED: Maryland Bills Would Resolve Presidential Primary Conflict with Passover...

...but the possible resolutions take different routes. 

The Maryland primary along with contests in three other states will conflict with the observance of the Passover holiday in 2024. Over the years, the Old Line state has been no stranger to these sorts of electoral/holiday overlaps. Spring holidays have proven to be a bit of a thicket in recent cycles in terms of election scheduling there. 

Eight years ago, in fact, it was the Easter holiday that was problematic, forcing a change to a presidential primary initially scheduled for the first Tuesday in April. However, efforts to push the election back by just a week to the second Tuesday in April raised another conflict: that the canvass of the presidential primary would have elections administrators working during Passover week at the end of April. The solution was to push the Maryland primary even further into April so that the the voting did not conflict with Easter and the canvass did not overlap with Passover. Of course, that solution -- scheduling the election for the fourth Tuesday in April -- meant that voting took place during Passover in 2016. 

That 2015 experience is important context for the current dilemma in Maryland. And history has repeated itself to some degree early in the efforts to correct the conflict. Over the last two weeks, two bills -- one in the House (HB 1279) and one in the Senate (SB 955) -- have been introduced to shift the Maryland presidential primary up a week from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in April. But while that moves voting in the primary out of the Passover window, it would have election administrators working on the canvass during the holiday. That is, it would create the very same conflict that initial bills in 2015 proposed before being amended later on in the legislative process. 

However, the sponsor of the Senate version, Senator Shelly Hettleman (D-11, Baltimore), has devised a different path that avoids all of the April holiday snags. In an amendment that Hettleman has offered to a broader elections omnibus, the presidential primary would be pushed out of April altogether. That floor amendment to SB 379 would move the Maryland presidential primary back three weeks to the second Tuesday in May, aligned with the Nebraska and West Virginia primaries. 

Senator Hettleman explained the rationale for the later date to WMAR in Baltimore:
Originally, we looked at going a week earlier but there were concerns that Early Voting would conflict with the legislative session, so the idea was to go later so as not to conflict with any holidays. Procedurally, I understand it looks different, but there is no difference between amending the change onto another bill and having a bill on its own -- as long as it's making the change. We thought that this was the most efficient way of getting this done at this point in the session.
The move would push the primary later in the calendar during a cycle in which Republicans look to have the only competitive nomination race. And while it would place the Maryland contest during the home stretch of the 2024 process, it would allow the Republican Party in the Old Line state to continue using the truly winner-take-all plan it adopted in 2019 for use in 2020. 

The amendment will be considered on the floor of the Maryland state Senate on Friday, March 10.

UPDATE (3/10/23, 2:15pm): Senator Hettleman's amendment to move the Maryland primary to the second Tuesday in May was adopted on a voice vote and the enter bill later passed its second reading in the chamber. That clears the elections omnibus bill, including the presidential primary move for 2024, for final passage. A cross-filed companion bill has already passed the state House, but without the presidential primary provision. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Pennsylvania House Bill Would Move Presidential Primary from April to March

A group of five Republicans led by Rep. Keith Greiner (R-43rd, Lancaster) has introduced legislation to shift the Pennsylvania general primary, including the presidential primary, to the third Tuesday in March

HB 51 would take the consolidated primary that has been on the fourth Tuesday of April for every cycle of the post-reform era but one (2000) and move the contest up five weeks. Functionally, this measure accomplishes exactly the same change as a bill introduced earlier this session in the state Senate. The same presidential primary move from April to March is called for in both, but the Senate version contains a second section that specifies that this change is to take place for the 2024 cycle. That section is mostly superfluous because the next section sets the effective date of the legislation for 60 days after it is signed. Only in the event that the House version 1) becomes the sole vehicle for this change and 2) if it carries over to the 2024 session would the legislation not take effect for this upcoming cycle. 

All in all, this is a minor distinction that only becomes meaningful if the legislature does not act on one bill or the other early enough in 2023. But there are now active bills to accomplish the same presidential primary date change in both chambers with bipartisan support. The Senate version has a bipartisan group of sponsors and while the Senate list of co-sponsors does not include any Democrats, two House Democrats have already expressed support for such a shift

The odds, then, are higher than they have been in most Pennsylvania legislative sessions that this will be the cycle the presidential primary date changes. Similar legislation failed in 2019 and 2022.

Pennsylvania would join four other states -- Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio -- already set to conduct March 19 presidential primaries in 2024. 

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


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

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Hawaii Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

The Hawaii Senate on Tuesday, March 7 passed legislation creating a presidential primary in the Aloha state and scheduling the stand-alone election for Super Tuesday.

With little discussion and by a vote of 23-1, the upper chamber in the Hawaii state legislature passed SB 1005 with amendments added during the committee stage. The measure now heads to the House, where a similar bill was deferred in committee earlier this session after it failed to meet a deadline. But the House version was deferred because the Senate companion was further along in the legislative process.

Hawaii is the lone remaining state under unified Democratic control with no state-run presidential primary. That looks to change for 2024. Obviously, the bill would come back to the Senate if the House makes any changes, and one area that might force another Senate vote is the appropriation for the new, separate presidential primary election. There is an expenditure called for, but it remains blank in the version the Senate just passed. Ultimately, those funds come out of the Office of Elections and the amount (estimated at $2.7 million) may be specified more clearly in their budget.

If that proves to be a snag, it will likely be a minor one. SB 1005 now moves to the state House. 


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

May Presidential Primary Bill Continues Its Quick Pass Through Idaho Legislature, but...

The Idaho legislation to consolidate the stand-alone March presidential primary with the primary elections for other offices in May emerged late last week from the Senate State Affairs Committee with a Do Pass recommendation. 

With just two dissenting votes, the panel passed off H 138 to the full state Senate for consideration on the floor. But that move followed quick passage through the state House and a committee hearing on the upper chamber side that heard far more testimony against the move to consolidate the presidential primary with later contests. And both the trade-offs involved in the discussion and the battle lines drawn offer an interesting mix of factors in a state long under unified Republican control.

Part of the equation is a classic tale in the journey that some bills take to move a presidential nominating contest around on the primary calendar. Bill sponsors (and Secretary of State Phil McGrane) in this case have touted the savings that eliminating the separate presidential primary will have once merged with the primaries for state and local office in late May. Indeed, the move would strike an estimated $2.7 million from the state budget. No one providing testimony offered much to counter that reality. 

Instead, the resistance came from the Idaho state Republican Party and to the supposed infringement on its right to free association under the first amendment. To boil the session down to its essence, it was a struggle between a state party's right to determine when to hold a nominating contest and the state's obligation to foot the bill for such an election. 

That happens across the country from time to time. But what is unique here is that this is a Republican-on-Republican dispute. A majority of Republican legislators are driving a change to a process that the state Republican Party opposes. The latter wants an earlier presidential primary that does not fall after the nomination has already been decided. That is the typical draw for the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses. 

But interestingly, Idaho is stuck in this weird vicious cycle where the lessons of the past are forgotten and bound to be re-learned on some level. To garner attention in the presidential nomination process, the state Republican Party abandoned the May primary in 2011 in favor of earlier (Super Tuesday) caucuses. That pushed the state government -- again, under Republican control -- to eliminate the presidential primary line from the May primary ballot altogether. And those moves had implications. First, the earlier caucuses actually brought 2012 Republican candidates into the Gem state to campaign. But the caucus process also proved arduous for the state party. Financing it was one thing, but finding the requisite manpower to pull it off was another. Often, there is no substitute for a state-run process, even if that means a later date. 

But it did not end up meaning a later date. In fact, ahead of the 2016 cycle, Idaho legislators revisited the idea of a presidential primary. And the legislature opted to set aside funds for a separate, earlier election a week after Super Tuesday. That expenditure was offset by the prospect of bringing in candidates again and bringing in any financial windfall that brought for Idaho businesses in the process. Only, that windfall never came. 2016 Republicans focused on delegate-rich Michigan instead. And not only did those gains not come in 2016, but the Idaho presidential primary was even less of a draw to Democrats in 2020 on a date crowded with other, more delegate-rich contests. 

And that is why proponents of H 138 are talking up the cost savings and the potential gain in turnout in the May primary. The irony, of course, is that those turnout gains may never be realized. The state Republican Party may be forced to abandon the potentially later presidential primary to hold earlier caucuses once again. And that, in turn, may put legislators in 2027 right back where they were in 2015: considering an earlier presidential primary for the upcoming cycle. And so it continues in Idaho.

A few other odds and ends from this hearing:
1. Former state senator and current Ada County Commission chair, Rod Beck noted in his testimony before the committee that the bill they are considering does not, in fact, do what proponents set out to do. It eliminates the separate presidential primary, but does not also build back the legal infrastructure that was in place before the presidential line was eliminated from the May primary ballot in 2012. This is something FHQ noted in the initial post on H 138. In other words, under the provisions of this bill, there will not be a presidential primary in March OR May. That is an additional nudge to the state party (or state parties) to move to caucuses for 2024.

2. As another in a long line of folks testifying on this bill noted, a late May primary also creates a logistical nightmare for the state party. The point was that a late May primary forces a caucus/convention process to select delegates into a very small window before a July national convention. That point was, perhaps, a bit exaggerated. After all, other states have begun the selection process before a late primary allocates slots to particular presidential candidates in the past. There would be ways to work around that in Idaho as well. However, that late May primary date would push Idaho much closer to the new 45 day buffer the RNC has put in place for 2024. States have to have completed their delegate allocation and selection processes before the end of May. So there is probably some wiggle room for Idaho under the scenario where the state conducts a late primary, but not a whole lot. 

3. Yet another person who offered testimony raised questions about the supposed impact a move to consolidate the primaries would have on turnout. Obviously, if the parties move to adopt a caucus procedure, then those effects will be minimal. But the point made was that Idaho has changed the process so often in the last decade plus that it is difficult to get a baseline to compare turnout to, a baseline that is not just some function of the quirks of any given presidential nomination cycle. 

More on the committee hearing in the state Senate here and here.