Showing posts with label concurrent primaries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label concurrent primaries. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

In Wisconsin, Legislature Moves on Other Measures But Ends Effort at Earlier Presidential Primary

In the end, the price tag associated with creating an all-new and separate presidential primary election was too much for Wisconsin legislators. The Joint Finance Committee balked:
The plan to move the presidential primary was aimed at making sure conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly is not up for election on the same day as the presidential primary in April 2020, when Republicans fear Democratic turnout will be high. 
Moving the primary to March would cost taxpayers nearly $7 million and municipal clerks warned it would be hard to conduct so many elections so close together. 
The committee didn't approve the legislation and leaders said they doubted it would come up on the floor of the Senate or Assembly.
SB 885 did not come up on the floor, and will end up a casualty of this brief legislative lame duck session. The idea of a March presidential primary likely ends there. First, Republicans in the legislature pushing the measure would face resistance from the same elections clerks in January but would also have to contend with a Democratic governor then. And even if they sought to move everything -- presidential primary and judicial election -- up to March, such a proposal would save on expenditures, but also likely continue to draw the ire of elections officials because of the quick turnaround from the February spring primary.

Obviously, any proposal to save the expenditure and move everything to March would additionally fail to lower the turnout on the judicial election. It would still be tethered to the presidential primary.

As described in an earlier post, this discussion of a primary move happened under unique circumstances in the Badger state, unique enough that it likely will not be repeated as the legislature convenes a new session in January. Often proposed primary shifts will come up on a recurring basis in state legislatures, but this one in Wisconsin is unlikely to follow that trend.

And all is not lost: that first Tuesday in April date would have Wisconsin -- as of now anyway -- all by itself in 2020.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Wisconsin Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to March

Legislation has been introduced during the lame duck session of the Wisconsin legislature to create a separate presidential preference primary election. SB 885 would not only split the presidential primary off from the spring election -- typically tethered to judicial elections -- but would schedule the presidential contest for the second Tuesday in March.

Given the 2020 calendar layout, that would mean a shift up by four weeks for the Wisconsin primary, pushing it up in line with previously scheduled contests in Michigan and Ohio. Conceivably, the new Minnesota presidential primary could end up on that date as well. Parties there can decide on a date other than the first Tuesday in March. With Minnesota and Wisconsin on board, the second Tuesday in March would look like a Great Lakes/Big Ten primary on the heels of Super Tuesday.

UPDATE (12/4/18):
The potential primary move continues to draw the ire of elections administrators on both sides of the aisle in Wisconsin:
The bipartisan panel [the Wisconsin Election Commission] voted 6-0 on a motion to inform lawmakers of the difficulties of moving the election, which could cost as much as $6.8 million and which a top Republican leader has said is aimed at helping re-elect conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly.
FHQ talked about some of that opposition here:
Find much more about the contours of the potential Wisconsin move here.

This legislation will also be added to the 2020 presidential primary calendar here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Wisconsin Republicans Consider Lame Duck Push to Create a Separate March Presidential Primary for 2020

In the wake of the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans in Wisconsin are looking at a change to the scheduling of the 2020 presidential primary in the Badger state.

And in the scope of all post-reform shifts in the dates of presidential primary elections across the country, it is not a typical proposed move. To be more precise, the proposed move forward -- from an April position on the calendar to March -- is entirely within the norm. State actors began to consider pushing up primary dates for 1972 almost before the ink was dry on the McGovern-Fraser reforms and they were adopted. That is not what is atypical about the potential move in Wisconsin. 

Instead, it is the how, the why, and the when of the proposed shift in Wisconsin that deviates from how most states have gone about these changes in the past. 

First, the timing of this is unusual. Although it is not unheard of, it has historically been the case that most of the movement on the presidential primary calendar has taken place in the year before the presidential election. There are exceptions of course. Missouri legislators pushing the 2004 presidential primary in the Show-Me state up from March to February in 2002 comes to mind. But while there are exceptions, the year prior to a presidential has been the window in which states have tended to make these scheduling decisions. 

The reasoning is sound enough: That is when state actors the most up-to-date information (who is running, which parties have contested races, what other states are doing, etc.). It is also a time that occurs at the confluence of new legislatures being sworn in following midterms and when the urgency for a change of primary dates is at its highest (or at least when the timing is most on the radars of state legislators).

But by that mark, Wisconsin legislators are only slightly jumping the gun, right? After all, Texas legislators in 2010 prefiled legislation to move the primary in Lone Star state up for the 2012 cycle. However, Texas legislators introduced that legislation in anticipation of the start to the 2011-12 session. That is not what is happening in Wisconsin. Rather, legislators in the Badger state are considering these changes as part of a lame duck session as the bookend to unified Republican control of state government. 

That draws this back to the how and why of the proposal. 

Again, it is not atypical for states to move up the dates of their presidential primaries in post-reform era. In fact, Wisconsin has done this in the past: moving the spring election, including the presidential primary and the general election for judicial and other offices, from April to March for the 1996 cycle.1 And then for the 2004 cycle, legislators there bumped the presidential primary from the spring election in April to the spring primary in February. 

But in both of those cases the Wisconsin presidential primary move was either tethered to the move of a set of elections -- the whole spring election was moved -- or toggled from one pre-existing election (the April spring election) to another (the February spring primary). The distinction is subtle, perhaps, but meaningful. Those moves meant the budgetary requirements were close to neutral. 

Neither added to the budgetary bottom line in Wisconsin. 

Contrast that with the proposed shift for the 2020 cycle. The idea of the hypothetical bill -- and none has been introduced to this point -- would be to create an all-new and separate presidential primary to be scheduled in March 2020, between the February spring primary and the April spring election. That new election would cost the state at least $7 million (and mean a third election in consecutive months for election administrators).

But why not shift into that February position as legislators in Wisconsin did during the 2004 cycle? That is not a viable option to legislators in 2020. Whereas February contests (outside of Iowa and New Hampshire) were allowed by national party rules during 2004, they are not in 2020. Nor were they in either 2012 or 2016 when states faced penalties to their national convention delegations for timing violations. This is why the 2015 bill to once again move the Wisconsin primary from April to February went nowhere. It would have put the Wisconsin delegations to both parties' national conventions at risk of penalty.

Left with no realistic alternative among the elections already on the calendar (the costs of which are already accounted for), Wisconsin Republicans are focusing on separate March option. That option, if not the price tag, are additionally enticing to a party set to lose unified control of state government when Democrat Tony Evers is sworn in as governor because it would hypothetically separate a high-profile, high turnout presidential primary from the spring election for judicial offices. 

That would put the spring election at the close of a February-March-April election-a-thon (elect-a-thon?) in Wisconsin. That is not only difficult for election administrators and places a significant burden on voters as well. Turning out for three elections in three months runs the risk of driving up voter fatigue and driving down turnout. The latter is seen as potentially advantageous to Republicans in the state and those behind this proposed primary move being floated. 

And that makes the why of this unusual too. It counters the exact kind of maneuvering that FHQ mentioned just recently: that idle Republican legislators facing an at-this-point noncompetitive presidential renomination race would consider moving primaries back rather than forward. That, however, is more nationally-focused maneuvering. The proposed Wisconsin move is more locall-minded. Procedurally, it is aimed not at the national implications in either the Democratic or Republican presidential nomination races, but at a methodical severing of one high-profile election (presidential primary) from another election (the judicial election set to occur during the April spring election).

To the extent the scheduling of presidential primaries is localized like that, it almost always focuses on the costs (see the 2012 cycle in particular). It is rarer to see something as politically raw in its calculations as the proposal in Wisconsin. Although one could look on it as a logical, albeit localized, extension of a slippery slope one could trace to national Democratic maneuvering in the lead up to 2012.

Look, this is not one of those "on both sides" sorts of things, but as the 2020 cycle heads into 2019, these are the sorts of process tales that need to be told beyond the regular rhythms of primary movement in the post-reform era. 

1 That move for 1996 was part of an effort to create a Great Lakes regional primary that included Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wrong! Wrong! A Thousand Times Wrong! One Bit of Misinformation from the Democratic Change Commission's Meeting This Past Weekend

The one big criticism I have of what I've read about the Democratic Change Commission meeting this weekend is that there still is no viable incentive structure in place to get states who have or will in the future want to frontload their presidential primaries and caucuses to move back or stay put. That's a thorny issue, though, at the intersection of state parties, national parties and state legislative jurisdiction, so I don't blame the 37 member group for not having gotten to that point yet. [Their recommendations won't come until after the group's December 5 meeting in Washington.]

However, what I can't forgive is one bit of misinformation that made its way out of the proceedings that is bad, bad, bad. Here's the Q&A exchange with North Carolina State Senator Dan Blue fielding the questions (from DCC member, Suzi LeVine's notes):

Q: what is the situation about states having separate state & presidential primaries? Ie – California did it.

A: expensive – but sense that California being so late is problematic. Last time California went early and they still didn’t get the attention. Very unsatisfactory then. State legislature seems to like moving it up. However, remember that incumbents benefit with an early primary ‘cause challengers haven’t been able to raise money and awareness and these positions are often chosen in the primaries.

Q: How would budget deficit in California affect 2012?

A: Bifurcating the 2 primaries is expensive. Usually have to stay unhitched to address local laws. Brought up the Affect of redistricting (will happen ‘cause of census)

Q: states with federal and state primaries on the same day?

A: most are together – but will find out exact number.

WRUH-ONG! [It is difficult to make something monosyllabic, have two syllables.]

In fact, this is very wrong. By my count, the 2008 primary calendar saw just 13 states with presidential primaries and primaries for state and local offices held concurrently. The remaining states and territories had their presidential nomination contests separate from their statewide and local primaries. And I say nomination contests there because 24 of the remaining 37 states held two separate primaries while the remaining 13 held caucuses for presidential delegate selection and later primaries for the other offices.

Together at Last, or Are They?
Presidential Primaries and State and Local Primaries (2008)
Concurrent Primaries
Split Primaries
North Carolina
West Virginia
South Dakota
New Hampshire
South Carolina
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
North Dakota

Here's the thing: This idea -- split primaries, as I've called them -- is the number one reason why some states have moved in the time since the McGovern-Fraser reforms that were instituted in 1972 and others have not. In the 1976-1996 period, presidential primary states that already had separate primaries were over five times more likely to move their contests to an earlier date than were those with concurrent presidential and state/local primaries. Once you add the cycles of the hyper-frontloaded era (2000-2008) -- when the incentive, like in 2008, was to move or get left out -- that effect dropped to only twice as likely. And no, that doesn't even take into account the caucus states. With those split caucus states included the effect is even greater.


Well, those states that have already severed the tie between the two primary types, and have institutionalized the resulting structure over successive presidential election cycles, don't face the same problem states with concurrent primaries have. Concurrent primary states face the start-up costs associated with funding an all new presidential primary election (see constant reference to California's expensive transition in 2008 in the quoted text above). The split primary states have already dealt with and absorbed that cost. Those states, then, are much freer to move their delegate selection events where they please. And since about 1980, the motivation has been to frontload.

So, do more states hold all their primaries together? No, they do not. Two-thirds of the country, in fact, hold separate contests.

*The data for the years prior to 2000 were gather from various sources by the author, but from 2000 onward were thankfully publicly available on The Green Papers.
**Texas could also fall into the caucus category simply because of its hybrid prima-caucus system.
***Arkansas was split for 2008, but has already passed legislation that will eliminate the separate primary in 2012.

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