Showing posts with label first in the South. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first in the South. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bill Introduced to Merge Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries in South Carolina

Two-time South Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Vincent Sheheen (D-27th, Kershaw), has prefiled a bill in the South Carolina state Senate that would seek to consolidate the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

The legislation, S 204, would put some modicum of pressure on the two state parties (or any other party that received 5% of the vote in South Carolina in the previous presidential election) to mutually set and submit to the South Carolina Election Commission a single date on which the presidential primary would be conducted. If there is no agreement between the parties, then the presidential primary would be held in June with the primaries for statewide and local offices. That provision seems like a poison pill, but the bill provides an out for the parties, allowing them to select another date, so long as the party funds the election.1 State parties typically choose the state-funded option where available. But state funding of presidential primaries came late to South Carolina. There is a history in the Palmetto state of party-run primaries and caucuses. It was not until the 2008 cycle that the South Carolina legislature authorized and appropriated state money for the presidential primary.

Finally, if only one party opts to conduct a presidential primary -- most common when only one party has an active and competitive nomination race -- then that party can set a date with the State Election Commission.

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Now, FHQ does not know if this bill will go anywhere in the legislature. Our hunch is no, but this thing is multifaceted with a number of implications. The benefits are clear. This is a potential cost-saving mechanism for the state. Instead of funding and conducting two separate presidential primary elections, this measure would exert pressure on the parties to opt into the one state-funded option. Again, state parties tend to be averse to funding their own contests once a state-funded option exists.

Let's assume for a moment that S 204 passes. What influence does that have over the state parties' decisions for 2016 and beyond? Well for one thing, Democrats and Republicans in South Carolina have not held concurrent delegate selection events ever in the post-reform era (1972-present). This legislation would change that; creating the perception of a if not an outright loss of scheduling flexibility (from the state parties' perspectives). The national parties protect South Carolina's position among the so-called carve-out states, but this legislation could -- again, from the state parties' perspectives -- negatively affect their ability to remain first in the South. That is certainly true if the state parties cannot agree on the date of a presidential primary, pushing the state-funded option back to June. [It is quite difficult to be first in the South in June.]

The problem is that there is a built-in conflict that could make agreement between the state parties a difficult enterprise. South Carolina Democrats and South Carolina Republicans have different motivations and even different restrictions from the national parties. Though it is not any sort of codified requirement, South Carolina Republicans have grown accustomed to being the third contest on the presidential primary calendar. There are exceptions, but South Carolina Republicans have more often than not been contest the candidates head off to after New Hampshire (since 2000).2

That conflicts with the restrictions placed on the South Carolina Democrats by the DNC delegate selection rules. Those rules call on South Carolina to be the fourth contest on the primary calendar behind Iowa, New Hampshire and then Nevada. If South Carolina Republicans want to be third and South Carolina Democrats have to be fourth, that makes agreement on a primary date pretty tough. And keep in mind what a moving target all of this may be later this year as the calendar movement is winding down. There is uncertainty built into all of this. The silver lining from the South Carolina perspective -- again, assuming this bill becomes law -- is that the state parties have until January 1 of the presidential election year to make the date decision.3 Consider also that Nevada Democrats and Republicans may not have a consolidated caucuses date as they did in 2008. If parties in the Silver state choose different dates that complicates matters. It may help South Carolina. It may hurt. To help the South Carolina effort, Nevada Republicans would have to opt for a later caucuses date than their Democratic counterparts.

This bill may or may not get out committee, much less pass and be signed into law, but it would offer a potentially interesting dynamic to the positioning of the carve-out states in 2016.

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1 With or without that provision, state parties would always have the self-funding option. That is consistent with most of the body of case law on the subject of parties controlling the nomination process. More often than not, if there is a conflict between what the state party wants and what the state law calls for, the courts tend to side with the parties.

2 Michigan in 2008 is a good example of an exception. South Carolina Republicans were more concerned with staying ahead of rogue Florida that year than worrying about where the Great Lakes state was positioned on the calendar.

3 That deadline seemingly places a great deal of confidence in the calendar positioning being an orderly process for 2016 and that by extension the early states do not get pushed into January. If the parties wait that long to set a date, that leaves the state very little time to prepare for a hypothetical January primary election.


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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

South Carolina Bill to Streamline Presidential Primary Funding Becomes Law

Back in March the South Carolina state House took up, considered and passed HB 4732. The legislation sought to clarify the method under which the Palmetto state would fund its quadrennial presidential preference primary.

As FHQ has detailed previously, South Carolina -- up to the 2008 cycle -- had left the funding of the presidential primaries of the two major parties up to the respective state parties. The dates, delegate allocation rules and funding were all the domain of the state parties before 2008. In the lead up to that election cycle, however, the South Carolina legislature shifted the funding burden to the state government while leaving the other roles to the state parties. The 2007 change to the law allowed the South Carolina State Election Commission the ability to set the filing fee while granting the parties the power to issue an additional certification fee.

But there were problems with that change. The most direct problem was that there was a reference to the 2008 election in the law. That meant that the alteration technically had a sunset provision that was not fixed prior to the 2012 presidential election cycle. More indirectly, there was in 2011-12 some question as to the process by which funds would be disbursed to the counties for implementation. In question was whether the State Election Commission divvied those funds out to the counties ahead of the election or reimbursed the counties after they had footed the bill for conducting the presidential preference primary election. The latter had seemingly been the method by which funds were disbursed/reimbursed, but that left the counties -- some of the larger ones -- crying foul in 2011.

The bill -- HB 4732 -- rectifying the first issue was unanimously passed by the state House in March and ultimately taken up and passed by the state Senate; also by a unanimous vote (in late May). The indirect intra-governmental dispute (state versus counties) over funding/reimbursement was essentially fixed in early 2012 when the counties' claim was denied by the South Carolina Supreme Court.1

This 2014 legislation, after garnering unanimous support in both chambers of the South Carolina General Assembly, made the June signature of Governor Nikki Haley (R) nothing more than a formality. The change took effect immediately, thus clarifying the process by which South Carolina presidential primaries are funded.

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1 The counties' petition concerned the fact that after 2008 the funding mechanism should have reverted to the state parties. However the state supreme court countered that while the law did refer only to 2008, the state budget thereafter had made allowances for funding the presidential primary.


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bill to Clarify Funding of South Carolina Presidential Primary Passes State House

The South Carolina state House on March 26 unanimously passed HB 4732. The record will show that the legislation does little more than remove references to the 2008 presidential election cycle in the current statute, but the story is slightly more complicated than that.

It was for that cycle -- 2008 -- that South Carolina opted to change its to-that-point traditional practice of state parties directly funding their own delegate selection events and settling the rules (including the scheduling of the primary itself) for conducting the contests. The rules-making function remained with the state parties, but legislation ahead of the 2008 nomination process shifted the funding from the state parties to the South Carolina State Elections Commission (and the counties).1 When 2012 rolled around, the clause in the statute pertaining to the funding of the presidential primary -- specifically the 2008 and only the 2008 primary -- left questions about which governmental entity would fund the election. A disconnect developed between the State Elections Commission and the counties.

This 2014 legislation seeks to clarify that issue. Technically, the state parties collect the filing fees from the candidates and transmit the funds to the State Elections Commission to conduct the election. Any surplus (filing fees minus election expenditure) stays with the state to be used for similar purposes in future elections.

This bill still has to be considered and passed by the South Carolina state Senate and signed by the governor. There seems to be broad support, however. In any event, this discrepancy did not affect South Carolina's ability to conduct the first in the South primary in 2012 and would not in 2016 even if this legislation dies at some point in the legislative process.

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1 Though state parties have the final say on (the conditions for) how they will select delegates to the national convention, when the funding mechanism moves from the state parties to the state government, the state government typically takes on the date-setting function as well. State parties can opt out of that set up and fund their own separate primary or caucuses, but few give up what amounts to "free money". South Carolina is an exception to that rule. When the funding crossed over to state governmental hands, the date-setting role stayed with the parties. That was a very obvious nod to the position the Palmetto state plays in the presidential nomination process; preserving its first in the South status.

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