Showing posts with label Brian Kemp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brian Kemp. Show all posts

Thursday, March 6, 2014

An SEC Primary in 2016? Not so fast… (Part II)

A couple of weeks ago FHQ examined the likelihood that the states most closely associated with Secretary of State Brian Kemp's (R-GA) southeastern regional primary proposal would be able to implement a presidential primary move. That was more of an internal look at what may affect the calculus in each state. The post touched on outside factors that may affect that decision-making process, but only in passing. Obviously, there are other matters that may intervene to complicate things.

There is some history here. The idea of a southern regional primary is not a new one. Barely a year after the reformed presidential nomination process got its first trial run in 1972, Jimmy Carter was out laying the groundwork for a nomination bid on the Democratic side in 1976 but was also trumpeting the strategic virtues of holding a collective southern regional primary. The benefits seemed clear. The South would speak with one voice and propel a more moderate-to-conservative candidate to the Democratic nomination who could, in turn, better compete in the general election.

As it turned out, it took the states of the South a decade and a half to coordinate this, bringing the idea to fruition. It took some cajoling from the Carter folks ahead of the 1980 renomination run against Ted Kennedy to convince legislators in Florida to hold pat in March and legislators in Alabama and Georgia to move up to coincide with the primary in the Sunshine state. That subregional primary was to serve as a counterweight to the delegate gains Kennedy was likely to win in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.1

Four years later, several southern and border states adopted caucuses for the competitive Democratic nomination race, joining Alabama, Florida and Georgia in March, though not all on the same date. Only the Oklahoma Democratic caucuses were on that same second Tuesday in March date. Caucuses in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina followed later in the month. Collectively the South spoke with something approximating a single voice, but the result was not support for a more moderate candidate.2 Rather, it was support for Walter Mondale.

There was, then, no alignment between the notion of a strong, unified regional voice in the process and a homegrown, southern, moderate-to-conservative candidate. The former seemed more likely with a southern bloc of contests, but that did not happen until the 1988 invisible primary. Even then -- with everything lined up -- the South did not speak with one voice in the 1988 Democratic primary. The unintended consequence was that three Democratic candidates emerged from the Southern Super Tuesday with a claim to victory -- Dukakis in the populous South (Florida and Texas), Gore in the peripheral South and Jackson in the Deep South -- all while George HW Bush used a sweep of the region on Super Tuesday to consolidate his hold on the Republican nomination.

The dynamics of any given nomination race matter and it is difficult to gauge ahead of time -- as a decision-maker on the state level -- what those dynamics will look like in, say, two years time. That is the cautionary tale for those thinking of coordinating primaries in 2016. That past repeated itself to some degree in 2008 on the Democratic side (though not in a regional sense). Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton roughly split the logjam of national contests on Super Tuesday while John McCain significantly stretched the delegate lead he had established during the January contests.

What are the dynamics FHQ is talking about?

The candidates who run combined with the sequence of primaries and caucuses and the rules of delegate allocation are basics. And all are unknown at this point in time to those state-level decision-makers. There is a baseline calendar for 2016, but the question is how state actors view that terrain in light of the national party rules on (national convention) delegate selection. Actually, this constitutes several questions:
  1. Do we want to move our delegate selection contest up (to an earlier point on the calendar)?
  2. Does a new position mean incurring a penalty from one or both national parties?
  3. Does a new position mean conducting an election on the same day as a number of other regional partners?
  4. Does a new position mean conducting an election on the same day as a number of other states with no one dominant region? 
  5. Does moving to a new position to create a regional primary (question #3) mean that other states (or regions -- see question #4) will herd toward that date; typically in the post-reform era, the first date allowed by both national parties (the first Tuesday in March in 2016)?
Now, there is no indication that state-level decision makers actually consider these matters this deeply. Rather, in most cases, state legislators (collectively) see, on its surface, a good idea -- a regional primary -- and run with it. In the process, however, there is little evaluation of the unintended consequences.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. These decisions to move a primary or caucuses are not independent of one another. The answer to question #1 depends on the willingness and ability of the state to move based on structural factors. FHQ has already discussed that for the states potentially involved in this retro-southern regional primary concept proposed by Georgia Secretary of State Kemp. Nothing in that proposal suggests that any of the southern go rogue, so the states of the South will avoid penalty so long as the Democratic National Committee retains a similar calendar to the Republican National Committee.

But there is something to questions #3-5 posed above. Partnering with other states in a region has its advantages, but it seems that that exercise has diminishing returns for the states involved as more states sign on. This needs a deeper examination, but one could argue that the most successful regional primaries have been subregional primaries; smaller clusters of contests at a point on the calendar that provides that group of states with the spotlight and is also earlier than the point at which 50% plus one of the delegates has been allocated to one candidate (effectively ending the nomination race). Contrast the 1988 Southern Super Tuesday with the 2008 Potomac Primary (Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC), for example.

The former was a mega-primary that allowed candidates to pick and choose their spots (as on the Democratic side in 1988). One could also just as easily see such a contest giving advantage to an unintended beneficiary (as on the Republican side in 1988). That is, someone of the party opposite the dominant partisanship of the region or a front-running candidate with the resources to compete in such a large number of states. Alternatively, the latter, if shrewdly scheduled (in this case a week after a rush of more than 25 contests in 2008), can draw candidates into a small area of competition with similar issues. Again, that was true in 2008 with the Potomac Primary, but one could also consider the Alabama/Mississippi cluster the week after Super Tuesday in 2012 another of these. Many have argued that those contests were evidence of Romney's poor showings in the South, but while the former Massachusetts governor lost in both, he emerged at near parity with Santorum and Gingrich in the delegate count in each. In other words, it was competitive; something a subregional cluster would desire.

This is actually an idea that the DNC attempted to nurture in 2012: clusters of primaries. Neighboring groups of three or more states that held concurrent primaries in or after April on the calendar a 15% delegate bonus. That was viewed as a way of matching up state and candidate interests but also for giving incentive to later primary and caucuses dates.

Broadly speaking, though, this is an hypothesis that needs some additional research. Is there at point of diminishing returns in terms of what states and candidates get out of a Super Tuesday pile up of contests. Smaller, distinct (date and regional proximity) clusters may be better able to accomplish this. That seemed to be part of the lesson that states seemed to have learned after 2008. Part of the motivation many states had in moving back was a change in national party rules (the February to March transition of the post-carve-out window), but the other part was that a number of states herded to Super Tuesday in 2008 and got nothing out of it.

Those are the competing interests facing those states willing to move around for the 2016 cycle: 1) Learn the lesson of 2008 and attempt to pick and choose a spot on the calendar (either alone or as a small cluster of subregional states) or 2) Move en masse to the earliest date allowed by the parties -- the first Tuesday in March.3 Those two options are not mutually exclusive. It could be that a group of southern states, for instance, cluster on March 1 (fulfilling the first option with the exception maybe of the small cluster) and that has the effect of triggering a rush on the date by other states. That reactionary group of states would be operating under the rationale -- as was the case before 2008 -- that if they do not move they will run the risk of falling after the point in the races where enough of the delegates have been allocated to have singled out a presumptive nominee.

There may also be the added layer of indirect involvement from the national parties as well; coaxing some states to move around. And this goes both ways; not Democratic and Republican so much as moving up and back. In 2012, there was some talk about national Democrats urging some states to move back to negatively affect the Republican process. Northeastern states would move back, making the front half of the calendar more southern and conservative. That would, in turn, hypothetically hurt Romney. The result was something of a mixed bag. Romney had a somewhat rough path to the nomination, but that was not a function of a conservative first half of the calendar. There was a good regional mix of early contests even if a group of mid-Atlantic/northeastern states moved back into late April. The real culprit for the drawn out Republican contest was the dispersion of contests across the entire calendar.

Assuming we witness some movement on Secretary Kemp's southern regional primary on March 1, we could see Republicans (nationally or the RNC quietly) urge just the opposite of what Democrats wanted in 2012. The idea of a southern regional primary isn't new as discussed above, but neither is the idea of a regional primary in this cycle. It was just last November that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was talking about a midwestern regional primary. If contests in the South begin moving up to March 1, there could very quickly be a quiet yet concerted effort to find a group of contests to serve as a counterbalance on the Republican calendar either on March 1 or not long after. Ohio is already scheduled for that week after Super Tuesday.

States once were slow to react to primary/caucuses movement in other states. A move in one cycle was met with a move in a the next subsequent cycle (if a state was compelled to move at all). That process has sped up over the last several presidential election cycles and reaction time had decreased. Since California moved its presidential primary from June to March in the 1996 cycle -- shifting with it the center of gravity in terms of the balance of delegates allocated over time across the primary calendar -- states have begun reacting within cycle. In other words, moving to a date that looks ripe for the taking now does not necessarily mean that that same date will not be jam packed with a number of other contests in the near future.

This hypothesis fits well in the policy diffusion literature. It also is something that FHQ has explored to some extent in a regional context. If one state moves its primary or caucuses, does that increase the likelihood that a neighboring state moves as well? What we found across a limited dataset -- the 2004 and 2008 cycles -- was the exact opposite: That if a neighboring state moved up, it decreased movement in surrounding states. At this point, FHQ is willing to chalk that up to a limited number of observations in just primary states across just a couple of cycles. It bears further research.

Again, it is easy to look at the surface issues here and move on if you are a state-level actor. Move up, bring along some regional partners, get more attention and affect the nomination. Under that surface, though, there is a lot to think through. It can quickly become a complicated series of unknowns. The changes to the Republican delegate selection rules have limited the world of possibilities by adding some penalties with teeth, but that does not mean that there are not 50 states -- some with multiple actors involved -- that are attempting to reduce uncertainty, game the system and gain an advantage for themselves (in terms of gaining attention and influencing the process). One move by a state or a series of states can set off any number of possibilities in reaction.

That's the take home message in this jumbled mess: unintended consequences. One move begets another move that may negate your original move. And there usually is not a rejoinder to the response. There isn't time.

1 As it turned out, Carter won New Hampshire and all three southern states in the 1980 primaries and it was not until later in the calendar that Kennedy began to close the delegate gap. Even that was too little too late.

2 Jesse Jackson's win in South Carolina and Gary Hart's in Oklahoma were the only two holes in an otherwise unified South. Those exceptions were early (March) contests and undercut the idea of the South collectively influencing the process by backing one candidate.

3 There is a third option as well. States could simply hold their ground and stay where current state law has the primary scheduled. Many states will do this as well.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An SEC Primary in 2016? Not so fast… (Part I)

Last week at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in Washington, Georgia secretary of state, Brian Kemp (R), rolled out a proposal for the alignment of southern presidential primaries on the first Tuesday in March in 2016. And Secretary Kemp has gotten some "positive feedback" on the plan from others in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.1

That's all well and good, but let's have a bit of a look under the hood on this thing. In the first part, FHQ will look at those states named above that have expressed an interest in the possibility of a southeastern regional primary.

The date that Secretary Kemp has proposed for what has been affectionately called the SEC primary is March 1. That is the first date on which states other than the four carve-outs -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- can hold delegate selection events under the actual (RNC) or expected (DNC) rules. In other words, that may be an attractive landing point for any number of states (see Super Tuesday on February 5, 2008). As of now, March 1 already has a southern flavor. Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are scheduled for that date according to current state laws in each. Adding Georgia to the mix gives the South the clearest and strongest regional voice on that date. That would make five out of the eight states southern with Massachusetts and Vermont serving as only a token regional counterweight.

But what is the likelihood that others (from the South) join those four (or five if one counts Georgia) on March 1?

Georgia is unique in that the state legislature ceded the authority to set the date of the Peach state presidential primary to the secretary of state in 2011. That makes Georgia like New Hampshire in that regard. Basically what that transfer of power means is that Georgia, like New Hampshire, is better able to move its presidential primary around without the potential for gridlock or just inaction on the part of a state legislature. Getting Georgia to March 1, then, is an easier task than it will be for other states.

And there will be something of a dilemma in the other states to whom that Secretary Kemp has reached out. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi will have push a date change through their legislatures. Secretaries of state in each of those states can (attempt to) initiate the legislative process on such moves, but that is no guarantee that there will actually be any shifting. The reason there is no guarantee is that such a proposal raises questions about the expected utility of a move. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are already in March.

What difference does it make to move up a week (as is the case in Alabama and Mississippi) or two-ish (for Louisiana's now customary Saturday primary)?

In Alabama and Mississippi, the expected cost or benefit of a move may or may not be financial. Both are already in March, so the trade-off is more a matter of going with a larger group of southern states and risking getting lost in the shuffle or sticking with a smaller subregional primary on a date a week later when they may collectively and effectively counterbalance the Ohio primary on the same date. That is a tougher question to answer when both dates -- the first and second Tuesday in March -- are potentially attractive landing points on the calendar for a number of states. Getting lost in the shuffle may be a foregone conclusion when it is all said and done and the calendar is finalized in late 2015.

The gamble is similar in Louisiana in that the internal debate is a function of choosing between a date where they may have a greater share of the spotlight later on (if the nomination races are still going in late March) and a date when many other southern states hold their contests; a proposition the nets the Pelican state some regional clout but not necessarily direct attention from the candidates. The situation in Louisiana is complicated by the fact that the state has utilized a Saturday primary the last two cycles. Part of that is designed to reserve a spot on the presidential primary stage where Louisiana stands alone or with other smaller and/or caucuses states. The spotlight favors them.

Legislators in Arkansas face a slightly different calculus. First of all, the new RNC rules almost force Arkansas to consider moving up. Currently scheduled for the next to last Tuesday in May, the Arkansas primary falls at a point on the calendar after the cutoff for when primaries will need to be held to accommodate a late June or early to mid-July Republican convention. But that only adds to the classic late state dilemma: move everything up (presidential primary, state and local primaries and all) or create a separate presidential primary that is easier to move around (but also costs the state additional election funds)? Arkansas has twice gone the latter route (1988 and 2008) and twice has gotten essentially no bang for its buck, the extra expenditure got the state nothing in the way of advertising dollars or candidate attention. How ready and willing is Arkansas going to be to repeat that pattern? The alternative -- moving a consolidated set of primaries to an earlier date -- has its own pitfalls. Such a move impacts state legislators tasked with making the move in the first place. Moving a consolidated primary up lengthens a state legislators general election campaign. It also potentially means that the primary campaign overlaps with the state legislative sessions which means the primary phase campaigning will be happening during the state legislative session. Both potentially make legislators' decisions that much more difficult.

Despite officials being open to the idea of a regional primary in the southeast, that does not necessarily mean that it will be enough to overcome the questions that will be raised during state legislative efforts to move primary dates for 2016 around. Those questions represent potential roadblocks in the legislative process that could derail movement to earlier positions on the primary calendar.

Of course, that is not all that complicates the potential effectiveness of this proposal or its intended implementation. FHQ will examine the other issues attendant to this proposal that may pop up in the intervening period between now and 2016 in part two.

1 Below is the press release from Secretary Kemp's office yesterday:

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Georgia Presidential Primary to March 6

[Click to Enlarge]

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has just announced that the Georgia presidential primary will be held on Tuesday, March 6. That secret came out last night. What was more revealing to FHQ was that Secretary Kemp made several comments about the way in which the Georgia Republican Party will allocate its delegates.

The highlights (We'll have more analysis later.):

  • The allocation will be proportional, but with winner-take-all triggers. 
  • To get any delegates, whether statewide or at the congressional district level, a candidate must clear the 20% vote threshold.
  • A candidate can take all of a congressional district's three delegates (42 delegates in total) if he or she surpasses the 50% barrier in the vote total. Otherwise, the top vote-getter in the district will be apportioned 2 delegates with the second place finisher taking the remaining delegate.
  • FHQ will have to listen back to Secretary Kemp's answer on the delegate allocation question to confirm whether those threshold rules also apply to the 30 statewide, at-large delegates.

Those rules can be consequential depending on the dynamics of the race at the time Georgia rolls around on March 6. If the race has narrowed to two candidates, then the likelihood of a more winner-take-most allocation of the delegates becomes much more likely. If the field has not been winnowed much, then a more proportional allocation in application is likely. For more on that see our previous entry on the subject.

For more on the implications of this move for Georgia, see last night's post.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Signs Point Toward a March 6 Presidential Primary in Georgia

The AP's Errin Haines is reporting that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp will set the Peach state presidential primary for March 6 at a press conference on Thursday. FHQ has driven a lot of the Georgia as a rogue state discussion since the legislation to hand the presidential primary date setting authority over to the secretary of state was first introduced in the Georgia General Assembly back in March. But the simple truth of the matter is that there was always just as much evidence for or against that notion all along. Early on, the Georgia Republican Party seemed wary of a non-compliant primary's impact on the delegate allocation. At the same time, Kemp made mention of coupling the Georgia primary with Florida's, of jumping the March 6 barrier if Florida did, and of settling on a date after Iowa and New Hampshire. Each time, however, the secretary always stopped short of endorsing a move to any date earlier than March 6.

The desire may have been there. The ability was certainly there. Yet, the willingness to jump into January or February was and apparently is lacking. Why, then, should the General Assembly have granted the secretary of state the flexibility to move the primary when all he did was move it back by a month relative to 2008? It was after all pretty clear by March -- when the legislation was introduced -- that most of the twenty states that entered 2011 with non-compliant primaries or caucuses were making some effort to move back and not forward. If early was preferred, the legislature could have left well enough alone and kept the primary on the first Tuesday in February or legislators could have moved the primary back to the first Tuesday in March -- the earliest date allowed by the national parties and the date on which the Georgia primary was held from 1992-2004.

The answer, of course, is that just because the flexibility afforded the secretary of state -- the same type of flexibility New Hampshire's Secretary of State Bill Gardner has used so adeptly since 1976 -- may not have been useful in 2012 but may be in future cycles. It was a long term change that was left idle in its maiden voyage.

If Secretary Kemp does in fact opt for a March 6 date tomorrow, what does that mean? Well, it means very little for the state of the overall calendar. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida will have one less threat to their early positions. The move is curious in one regard: Kemp is selecting a date that is the most crowded date on the calendar; a move even more at odds with the added flexibility behind the date selection. That said, Georgia, even on a date with eleven other Republican contests would be the biggest delegate prize on March 6 outside of Texas. And the Lone Star state may see limited competition with both Rick Perry and Ron Paul in the race. Ohio is the only other state on March 6 that may rival Georgia in its ability to grab attention. The Buckeye state has fewer delegates but is a more likely general election target; one on which the Romney campaign may focus almost exclusively completely after chalking up wins in Massachusetts and Vermont. [Romney also did very well in the caucus states in 2008. There are several western caucus states on March 6 that could potentially be fertile ground for the former Massachusetts governor if the focus is on the southern contests on March 6. That, however, is an open question at this point.]

Georgia, then, can stand out from the pack on March 6 based on delegates, but, depending on the dynamics of the race at that point in the race, could end up being hurt if, say, Romney is pulling ahead after the Florida, Arizona, Michigan stretch in the calendar and isn't focused on the South as much as on the general election and in organizing in battleground states like Ohio with early primaries. Yes, that is a fairly specific scenario a little more than five months out, but it is worth noting.

One way or another, we will have a definitive answer on the date of the Georgia primary Thursday morning.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Red Flags Raised, Some Comments on the Georgia Presidential Primary Situation

In yesterday's post FHQ questioned the Republican National Committee's ability to have a firm presidential primary calendar in place by the October 1; deadline by which state Republican parties must have informed the RNC about their method and mode of presidential delegate selection. Part of what came out of that discussion was not only that Arizona, Florida and Michigan (most likely) will be required by state law to set the dates of their presidential primaries by then, but that Georgia casts a long shadow over the process of setting the calendar in stone. Again, that advantage is structural. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has until December 1 to issue a decision on when the Peach state will hold its presidential primary next year. Arizona, Florida and Michigan (again, most likely) will have until the October 1 deadline to decide based on their own respective state election laws.

Georgia, then, is a potential threat if only because it is afforded the opportunity to sit back and wait as the other states settle on primary dates. Secretary Kemp can then place the Georgia primary at a place on the calendar that maximizes the attention the Peach state receives from the candidates and media during next year's presidential primaries.

But here's the catch: No one really knows just how willing Kemp is to flaunt the RNC delegate selection rules on timing. Sure, there's been talk of jumping ahead of March 6 if Florida does or coupling the Georgia primary with the primary in Florida. The secretary also recently mentioned that he would be inclined to wait as long or longer than Iowa and New Hampshire to set a date. Invoking Iowa and New Hampshire, at least, signals some willingness to move forward; not necessarily to challenge their position but to make a decision based on the fullest amount of information available. In other words, the decision on the primary calendar -- the full calendar -- is not likely to be known by October 1.

Kemp, then, has the ability to move the primary forward, but the willingness to this point remains an unknown. FHQ would like to focus on the ability for a few moments because it doesn't seem to be fully understood at this point. I keep reading in various places across the internet that Georgia's law allows the secretary the ability to set the Georgia primary for as early as January 31. That is partially true and additionally is something that I didn't explain fully in this space when the Georgia General Assembly first proposed its legislation ceding authority to set the presidential primary date to the secretary of state. Yes, Secretary Kemp can set the date, technically, as early as Monday, January 30, sixty days after the December 1 deadline. Of course, this is only a partial reading of the law. As I pointed out in FHQ's Primer for when the remaining undecided states may decide on primary states, the law allows the secretary the ability to set the date for any time in the calendar presidential year ahead of the second Tuesday in June.

Any time.

In other words, so long as Secretary Kemp makes a decision 60 days before the primary, it can be any date between January 1 and June 12. As I pointed out in the primer, if Georgia wanted to go as Florida's state law allows its Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee to schedule the primary in the Sunshine state (January 3), Secretary Kemp has the ability to do that as long as the decision is made before November 3. And back to yesterday's point, that could keep the presidential primary calendar in doubt until at least then with decisions in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to follow.

Again, though, we just don't know enough about Kemp's willingness to push the envelope that far (January 3).

One other point I wanted to address concerns not so much the setting of the date, but the allocation of the delegates in the primary independent of the date. Actually, the date matters because if Georgia holds a primary prior to April 1, the state Republican Party will have to alter the winner-take-all method by which it allocates delegates; something Jim Galloway of the AJC mentioned in a post over the weekend. Galloway, as so many others have done, is overstating the issue here. Yes, Georgia Republicans allocate delegates on a winner-take-all basis, but it does so not in terms of a candidate winning a plurality vote and taking all the delegates. Instead the allocation is split between the congressional districts and the statewide vote. FHQ has already torn down this notion, but it bears repeating. A candidate who wins the vote in a congressional district, wins all three delegates that district is apportioned according to the RNC rules. That is winner-take-all and the process of allocating those 42 delegates remains compliant with the current Republican rules. What is not compliant about the Georgia plan -- at least as it has been in the past -- is that the remaining statewide and bonus delegates can no longer be allocated by winner-take-all rules if the primary is before April 1. The rules regarding the allocation of those 30 delegates (10 base, at-large delegates and 20 bonus delegates) will have to be altered in some way by the Georgia Republican Party. That, in some way, will affect Kemp's calculus, though not as much as the prospect of seeing Peach state Republicans' delegate total whittled down to 38 in the event the party opts to hold an early, non-compliant primary.

And that is the one bit of information that we don't have: Is Kemp willing to take the delegate hit in exchange for early influence over the Republican nomination race?

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Monday, August 29, 2011

New Georgia Presidential Primary Law Passes Muster with DOJ

Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal Constitution (via Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office) is reporting that a series of new elections laws passed by the Georgia General Assembly this past session have been precleared by the Justice Department (in accordance with the Section V of the Voting Rights Act). On the list of laws reaching preclearance was the bill that shifted the presidential primary date setting authority from the legislature to the secretary of state. That allows the Peach state more leeway in setting its date than in the past when a decision had to be made before the legislature adjourned in late April/early May. The secretary of state can now assess the lay of the land with other states on the primary calendar before having to set a date before December 1 in the year preceding a presidential election.

This is the same method -- sans the requirement that a decision be made by a particular date -- that New Hampshire has used to stay at the front of the queue since 1976. As long as the change in no way affected minority voting rights -- and there is no evidence that it does -- then the plan was always going to be okayed by the federal government.

The full press release from Secretary Kemp:

Secretary of State Kemp Announces Receipt of Election Legislation Preclearance from U.S. Department of Justice

Atlanta – Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced today that his agency’s 2011 legislation affecting election processes have received approval or “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Each bill was passed during the 2011 session of the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. Under federal law, Georgia must obtain federal preclearance of any change affecting voting by filing suit in federal court or by obtaining administrative preclearance through the DOJ.

Secretary Kemp said, “These bills reflect our commitment to improving Georgia’s election code and strengthening our election laws and procedures, particularly by creating cost savings and increasing efficiencies at the state, county and local government levels.”

The following election bills received DOJ preclearance:

HB 92 (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton): Changes the time period for in-person early voting

HB 92 provides a uniform starting date for Georgia elections by reducing the in-person early voting period to the three weeks prior to Election Day. Reducing the in-person early voting period will free up critically needed resources in Georgia counties, and does not affect a voter’s option or ability to cast a mail-in absentee ballot 45 days prior to Election Day. Historically, approximately eighty percent of early voters cast their ballot during the three weeks prior to Election Day.

HB 158 (Sponsored by Rep. James Mills): Changes the date of judicial and other non-partisan races from November to the date of the general primary

HB 158 can prevent adding an extra election date in the event of a run-off, and the associated costs to Georgia’s counties.

HB 302 (Sponsored by Rep. Donna Sheldon): Changes the date of the general primary in even-numbered years following a census from the next-to-last last Tuesday in August to the last Tuesday in July

HB 302 allows the state to meet federal UOCAVA requirements for our military and overseas voters.

HB 454 (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton): Provides for the Secretary of State to set the date of the presidential preference primary

HB 454 gives the state more options and flexibility to determine when it will hold its presidential preference primary, and will ensure that the voices of Georgia’s voters are heard and are relevant in the presidential candidate nomination process. The Secretary of State must set the date no later than December 1 in the year prior to the primary, and the date must be no later than the second Tuesday in June of the primary year. Further, there must be a period of at least 60 days between the day when the Secretary of State sets the date and the date of the primary.

Brian Kemp has been Secretary of State since January, 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Secretary Kemp Mentions Setting Georgia Primary Date After Iowa and New Hampshire Are Set

Short story, potentially big message.

Christina Wright of The Macon Telegraph on Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's address to the Warner Robins Rotary Club Tuesday:
This will be the first year Kemp will set the presidential primary date, after the General Assembly passed the measure this spring for him to do so. Yet, with New Hampshire and Iowa attempting to remain the first primaries of the season, dates have fluctuated. Kemp said he is waiting for those dates before putting Georgia in the mix. The Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses historically have set the pulse of the presidential elections.
Kemp has been mostly tight-lipped on the issue of the Peach state presidential primary since the Georgia General Assembly ceded its power to set the date to the secretary in legislation signed into law earlier this year. The point of the bill was to allow the state -- through the secretary of state -- the flexibility it did not have previously in setting the date of its nominating contest. There have been clues from Kemp in the time since, but not much in the way of firm specifics.

Of course there have been a couple of hints about coupling the Georgia primary with the Florida primary. What has been missing to this point, however, is any indication of Kemp's the or the Georgia Republican Party's willingness to defy the RNC delegate selection rules. The true issue isn't so much whether Georgia will defy the rules. It is more about the extent to which the state will defy the rules.

First of all, good luck waiting out Iowa and New Hampshire. The two states at the head of the queue have a better chance of holding a primary before Kemp makes a decision than Georgia actually threatening those privileged positions. I only say that partially in jest. What Kemp is demonstrating here is not necessarily a threat to Iowa and New Hampshire. Instead, the secretary appears to be demonstrating at the very least a willingness to utilize every last day until the December 1 deadline by which that the newly enacted legislation requires him to set a date for the primary. If Secretary Kemp waits that long he will soon begin to limit himself. A December 1 decision only allows the secretary to set a date for January 31 at the earliest. A decision made sometime during November would theoretically put more of the month of January into play.

The way FHQ sees it, though, the secretary won't have to wait until December 1 to wait out the states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. For the most part, those states should fall in line during or around the first part of October (if not by the October 1 RNC deadline).

Friday, July 1, 2011

More from Secretary Kemp on Coupling Georgia's Presidential Primary with Florida's

Joshua Stewart of Georgia Public Broadcast got a few additional comments out of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on the issue of the timing of the Peach state's presidential primary next year:

“You sometimes feel like the president is picked in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and that’s maybe not a general consensus of what the real electorate throughout the country may be thinking,” Kemp said.

“If there was a way we could have our date the same as theirs, I think it would be attractive for candidates to be able to come and campaign in both these states because you could hit both states in one day [and] we have media markets that overlap,” Kemp said. “There’s just a lot of good synergy.”
The first statement is a throw-away. I'll reiterate what I've said before on this point: the national parties will be the ones to determine whether Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and winnowing the fields "properly" or creating a "general consensus" of which the parties are not supportive. That hasn't happened yet.

Now, the second point is more useful. It is more evidence that Kemp is open to the idea of coupling the Georgia primary with the contest in Florida. The reporting on this has attempted to link the Georgia situation with the recent stories about a brokered March 1 (or 2 or 3) date for the Florida primary. That, I think, doesn't accurately capture the situation. As I've tried to argue, Florida wants the fifth position behind Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, and if other states threaten that, Florida is likely not going to be willing to slip into an early, but only slightly non-compliant March position. If Michigan jumps to January, for instance, Florida isn't necessarily going to sit idly by and accept an early March position while the early four states bump their own contests up.

To be clear, Kemp made his initial comments to Jim Galloway at the AJC in the context of the possibility of a March Florida primary, but that does not mean that Georgia won't go earlier than that. Recall also, that even if Florida has a problem with Georgia holding a primary concurrently with the Sunshine state primary, it won't matter. Florida law requires a decision from the Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee by October 1 and Secretary Kemp has an additional two months beyond that (December 1) to make his decision regarding the Georgia primary.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where Georgia's Presidential Primary Might End Up

The AJC's Jim Galloway touched base with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today and chatted about the presidential primary in the state. Their discussion revolved to some extent around the thinking behind the secretary's upcoming decision to set the date of the Peach state's presidential primary. This is certainly a rare glimpse into the date-setting decision-making calculus. The only other secretary of state in a similar position is New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. And Gardner has typically played it close to the vest, holding out until the last possible threat to New Hampshire's primacy has settled on a date.

Kemp, however, broke with his Granite state counterpart and revealed some of his thoughts on the primary in reacting to recent primary news out of neighboring South Carolina and Florida.

On the possibility that the South Carolina GOP, facing financial constraints, would have to switch from a primary to a caucus, Kemp volunteered to move Georgia into the first-in-the-South primary position according to Galloway.

On Florida being allowed by the RNC to hold a primary in March, but before the allowed March 6 starting point, Kemp basically asked, "Why not Georgia?" This is a possibility that FHQ has speculated on in the past as well.

All told, what does this tell us that we didn't already know? Well, not all that much. The reason Georgia's legislature ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary over to the secretary of state was to give the state some added flexibility in scheduling the primary; something an early adjourning legislature often prevents. There was some evidence -- circumstantial perhaps -- that Georgia was willing to potentially go rogue on the national parties. But Kemp's comments to Galloway provide us with some concrete evidence that selecting a date outside of the parties' designated window for nominating contests is a possibility in the Peach state.

It should also be noted that South Carolina is not likely to willingly surrender its first-in-the-South status, and though the Republican Party in South Carolina won't have state funds for their primary, they will have a primary and not a caucus. A for the possibility of an early, but out of window March primary in Florida, that possibility will depend on what the feelings in the Sunshine state are to the potential moves in Michigan and Arizona. Regardless, I think aligning the Georgia primary with Florida's is an attractive option to Kemp. What remains to be seen is whether Florida's Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee is amendable to the idea. They may be out of luck though. The deadline for the committee in Florida to select a date is October 1. Kemp has until December 1 with the decision in Georgia.

Again, we now have an idea that Georgia is willing to join the early, but rogue group of primary states.

NOTE: Please note that Galloway incorrectly identifies the date of the South Carolina primary as January 28. That is not the date of the primary. The DNC set aside February 28 as the date of the South Carolina Democratic primary, but Republicans in South Carolina don't have to hold a primary on the same date as the Democrats. The RNC rules just specify that a South Carolina primary can take place in February some time, without setting a specific date.