Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New York Assembly Bill Introduced to Set Presidential Primary for April 26

On Monday, June 15, legislation was introduced in the New York Assembly to schedule the presidential primary in the Empire state for April 26.

Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-63rd, Staten Island) filed A8256 to push the New York presidential primary back to where it was during the 2012 cycle; the fourth Tuesday in April. The legislation passed in 2011 to move New York back into compliance with the national party rules was passed with a sunset provision that expired at the end of 2012. The current legislation contains a similar provision that expires after the 2016 elections.

Now, it should be noted that this bill was proposed by a Democrat in the Democratic-controlled chamber of the New York state legislature. However, it the language in the bill indicates Republican Party buy-in. The fingerprints are there anyway. The delegate selection rules that the New York Republican Party voted on last week are included as well as procedure for the 2016 presidential primary process in the state. That is, the bill lays out a winner-take-most plan (where a candidate can receive all of the at-large/statewide or congressional district delegates if that candidate wins each of those political units).

Given that time is running short on the New York legislature -- as was the case four years ago -- this bill would bot have come forth if it did not have sufficient support on both sides of the capitol building. The move in 2011 also came up in June and quickly moved through the legislature and to the governor's desk.

UPDATE (3pm): An April 26 date would align the New York presidential primary with presidential primaries in neighboring Connecticut and Rhode Island. If Pennsylvania maintains its position (also on April 26), it would bridge those three contests with primaries in Delaware and Maryland on the same date (along with the primary in the Keystone state). All would be eligible for timing and clustering bonus delegates under the Democratic National Committee delegate selection rules.

New York Republicans would not benefit from similar national party incentives. The late date also does not come anywhere close to the March 1 target date some within the New York Republican Party were aiming for earlier this year. Unlike the Texas reversion to its March 1 position, New York essentially standing pat -- assuming A8256 (or any of the other similar bills cited below) becomes law -- means that its large cache of delegates will continue to be toward the end of the process. With California set for a June primary, both will serve as delegate weights drawing out the calendar; keeping that 75% delegates allocated mark in late April rather than earlier (with earlier New York and/or California primaries).

UPDATE (4:30pm): There are four other bills -- in both the Assembly and Senate -- that also propose moving the presidential primary to an April date. The aforementioned A8256 has no pair in the Senate. However, A8251, also introduced by Assemblyman Cusick, has an identical bill, S5960 that has been proposed by Senator Rich Funke (R-55th, Rochester). All of those bills call for an April 26 New York presidential primary. Senator Funke also filed S5958 and S5962. The former outlines the details for an April 19 primary while the latter schedules the election for April 26 like the others. The two that are companion bills across chambers likely have the inside track toward quick passage, but A8256 was a late add to the Assembly Election Law Committee agenda for today.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Louisiana Legislature Passes Budget on to Jindal, Presidential Primary Funding Included

On the final day of the 2015 legislative session, Louisiana state legislators pushed through a package of bills to fund the government in the Pelican state for fiscal year 2015-16. The foundation of that budget includes funding for the 2016 presidential primary in the state, money that was not initially included in Governor Bobby Jindal's (R) original proposal to the legislature in March.

The governor is expected to sign the legislation. That keeps the Louisiana presidential primary on Saturday, March 5 next year. Democrats in the state are already slated to utilize the primary allocating delegates to the national convention, but Pelican state Republicans have in the past used both the primary and caucuses for allocating their delegates. That March 5 date will have Louisiana Democrats sharing calendar space with caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska. Louisiana Republicans, on the other hand, will have the date to themselves, a bridge between the SEC primary on March 1 and the primary in neighboring Mississippi on March 8.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Presidential Primary or Convention Question Still Looms Over Virginia Republicans for 2016

Back in March the question was raised as to whether the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) would hold a state-funded presidential primary in 2016 or opt instead for a party-funded convention. Other states have moved around on the calendar -- some have even switched from primaries to caucuses or from caucuses to primaries -- in the time since while the Virginia question has lain fallow for three months.

That appears likely to change when the RPV State Central Committee (SCC) meets on Saturday, June 27 to decide on the process for selecting and allocating delegates to the Republican National Convention next year in Cleveland. Based on past positions of current voting members of the SCC on the primary or convention question, the early whip count looks like it favors the convention format. The one thing that might change that in the actual vote in late June is that the SCC members are up for reelection themselves next year.

Travis Fain's article at the (Hampton) Daily Press mentions that RPV Chair John C. Whitbeck has not taken a position on the matter. Maybe not, but he certainly seems to lean toward the convention option.

There are some interesting side notes to explore assuming Virginia Republicans opt for a convention.
  • First, is the scheduling. As of now, Virginia is an adopted member of the SEC primary with a primary election scheduled for March 1. Virginia Republicans last selected and allocated delegates to the national convention at a state convention in 1996. During that cycle Virginia Republicans held caucuses leading up to the convention throughout March.  Old Dominion Republicans have utilized a primary in the time since then. However, the party has still maintained a caucus/convention system for selecting delegates to the national convention. The primary has been used to allocate/bind delegates to particular candidates based on the results in that statewide election. The 2012 convention was in mid-June.
  • How does the Minnesota decision affect Virginia in a convention (not primary) scenario? Recall that recently the RNC denied the request of Minnesota Republicans to continue to not binding delegates to the convention based on precinct caucuses results. If Virginia Republicans switch to a convention, caucuses naturally precede that end point. Would that mean that delegates would have to be bound based on the results of the earlier steps in the Virginia caucuses? No. Republican National Committee rules -- see Rule 16(a)(1) -- allow the selection and allocation of national convention delegates in a state convention vote. If Virginia Republicans only choose delegates at the earliest stages of the caucus/convention process -- without a presidential preference vote -- then the ultimate selection and allocation can take place at the convention. The difference as compared to Minnesota is that Republicans in the Gopher state were asking to send delegates to the convention unbound to any candidate.
  • Depending on the timing of the convention, Virginia Republicans could allocate all of their delegates to one candidate. Virginia is one of the few states that has a history with truly winner-take-all rules (see 2008).
  • FHQ will try not to overanalyze this, but again, depending on the timing of a supposed state convention, the early steps of the process could be much harder to determine/report on with no presidential preference vote. The advantage of a preference vote at the precinct caucus level is that it provides some indication of who won -- who the delegates moving on to subsequent steps are bound to/aligned with. Without a preference vote, there is no similar signal. And finding out requires a party willing to share who those delegates are and delegates willing to share to whom they are aligned. Absent that (or perhaps even with it), there is jockeying by the various campaigns to organize and get their folks through to the next step(s) of the process. This is a loophole case that may look a lot like those non-binding caucuses from the early 2012 calendar. 
This all puts a spotlight on the exact nature of the rules that Virginia Republicans adopt. This is one to monitor.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing along this news to FHQ.

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"...allows the party to..."

Ohio officially moved its presidential primary from March 8 to March 15 with Governor John Kasich's signature yesterday. Any time a state with 66 delegates moves -- even if only a week -- it is newsworthy.

But let's be real about the implications here. Here's is how Randy Ludlow describes it in the Columbus Dispatch:
Moving the presidential primary from March 8 to March 15 next year shifts Ohio from awarding its presidential convention delegates proportionally to granting all the delegates to the statewide winner.
That is not technically right. And it really is not something FHQ should feel compelled to respond to except for the fact that the difference between being misleading (about the process) and accurately describing matters is a four word phrase: allows the party to.

As in, "Moving the presidential primary from March 8 to March 15 next year allows the [Ohio Republican] party to shift from awarding its presidential convention delegates proportionally to granting all the delegates to the statewide winner."

Just four words turn the original text -- that implies a switch from proportional to winner-take-all was automatic upon Kasich's signature -- into a brief sentence that captures the sequence of all of this. The state government has completed its work by passing a bill through the legislature that was subsequently signed into law by the governor. In primary states, it is the state government that controls the date of the contest. However, the state parties hold the power to set the delegate allocation method (within national party guidelines).

Ohio Republicans have signaled that that switch -- proportional to winner-take-all -- is coming, but FHQ has yet to see any reporting (or anything on the Ohio Republican Party website to confirm) that a rules change has actually been made yet. In 2011, Ohio Republicans did not settle on a delegate allocation plan for 2012 until October (due to a prolonged redistricting dispute). With no redistricting conflicts, Ohio Republicans will have the ability to set those rules a little earlier in 2015 than they did in 2011.

Again, the Ohio presidential primary has moved to March 15. The state government controls that. However, the state party controls the method of delegate allocation. Those are interrelated but distinct actions taken by different actors.

The other troubling thing here -- and this was likely not Ludlow's intent in a very brief item -- is that by making it seem as if a primary date change automatically triggers a delegate allocation change, it builds on the false 2012 narrative that once the proportionality window closes, all primaries and caucuses are winner-take-all. In other words, the Republican National Committee has required winner-take-all contests on and after March 15. That was false in 2012 and it is false for the 2016 cycle. The close of the proportionality window marks the end of the RNC's requirements on delegate allocation at the state level. Once the window closes, state parties are free to set a method of delegate allocation of their choosing. It can be proportional. It can be winner-take-all. It can be some hybrid in between. The state party's hold maximum latitude in setting their delegate allocation rules if that state has a contest on or after March 15.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bill to Move Pennsylvania Presidential Primary to March 15 Introduced

On Wednesday, June 10, Pennsylvania state Representative Keith Greiner (R-43rd, Lancaster) introduced HB 1318. The legislation would move the presidential primary (and those for other offices) up to the third Tuesday in March. With rare exception, the Pennsylvania presidential primary has been scheduled on the fourth Tuesday in April throughout the post-reform era.1

Greiner's bill claims the bipartisan support of 16 co-sponsors (11 Republicans and 5 Democrats) and would align the Pennsylvania presidential primary with those in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio. Like Illinois, Pennsylvania directly elects delegates to the national convention in the primary and the presidential preference vote is a beauty contest. That adds some nuance to a date on the 2016 presidential primary calendar that already serves as the first day after the close of the Republican proportionality window. The other three contests are already winner-take-all (Florida), have a history with a winner-take-all allocation in the pre-proportionality era (Missouri) or are signaling a potential shift to winner-take-all rules (Ohio). If those three end up with truly winner-take-all allocation plans, that potentially makes both Illinois and Pennsylvania tougher draws for the candidates (or not an alternative with clear delegate gains).

However, that likely puts the cart before the horse in Pennsylvania. The newly introduced legislation will have to navigate a Republican-controlled legislature, but also pass muster with a Democratic governor. The former may be the easier task as Republicans are more motivated this cycle to have an earlier primary than Democrats. Republicans, it can be argued are after a guarantee that their respective state's contest will influence the Republican nomination. Democrats, on the other hand, are motivated to stick with a date that on the calendar that offers additional delegates to the national convention in Philadelphia. The later date and group of neighboring states with contests already slated for April 26 both would lead to bonus delegates. That, in turn, means that Democrats in the Keystone state may have more incentive to maintain the status quo primary date in April.

There are Democratic co-sponsors to the HB 1318, but the chair of the state Democratic Party has already spoken out in opposition to the move (as has the Pennsylvania Republican chair). Pennsylvania is getting a late start on this compared to most other states and the road is not necessarily a clear one toward passage and a gubernatorial signature. The move would not be without implications. A March Pennsylvania presidential primary would further compress an already compressed calendar in 2016 (as compared to four years ago).

1 The lone exception since the reformed system of nominating presidential candidates began in 1972 is the 2000 cycle when Pennsylvania shared the first Tuesday in April date with the Wisconsin presidential primary.

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Ohio Presidential Primary Moves to March 15

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) signed HB 153 into law according to a Wednesday, June 10 press release.1 The measure shifts back the date of the Ohio primary election -- presidential primary included -- from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March to the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March.

That slight change means the Ohio presidential primary will move from March 8 to March 15 for the 2016 cycle. The move pushes the Ohio Republican presidential primary out of the RNC proportionality window, allowing Republicans in the Buckeye state to allocate delegates in a winner-take-all fashion. The party has signaled that it would make that rules change as well. However, that alteration was not brought about by Kasich's signature on the bill. The signing did facilitate such a change, but the state party will have to act on that.

1 Press release:

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March 1 a Go for Colorado Democratic Caucuses in 2016

A few weeks ago, the Colorado Democratic Party released a draft of its 2016 delegate selection plan.1 Following the failed attempt at the close of the 2015 state legislative session to switch from a caucus/convention system to a more open primary system, both parties were essentially locked into caucuses and Colorado Democrats have selected March 1 for the date on which to hold their "first determining step" caucuses.

Parties in Colorado have two possible dates on which they can conduct precinct caucuses (with a presidential preference vote): the first Tuesday in February or the first Tuesday in March. The former is an option added for the 2008 cycle to allow the state parties the latitude to opt into a date that would be early enough to at the very least keep the Colorado caucuses in line with the logjam of states holding contests on February 5, Super Tuesday in 2008. As 2012 approached, the February option remained in state law, but the March option was pushed up a couple of weeks from the third to first Tuesday in March.

That meant that the second, later option was in line with the earliest date allowed on the informally coordinated calendar structure the national parties had devised for the 2012 cycle; the first Tuesday in March. It also meant that the caucuses date choice allowed by Colorado law was basically an optionless option. The national party delegate selection rules in 2012 prohibited February contests (with some loopholes and nose-thumbing states). Colorado Democrats settled on the March option in 2011 and have done so again in 2015 for the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Though non-binding caucuses technically allowed Colorado Republicans to hold February 7 caucuses in 2012 without penalty from the Republican National Committee, the new 2016 rules requiring the binding of delegates (based on the earliest, statewide vote) limits Republicans in the Centennial state in a way they were not in 2011. It also means that Colorado Republicans would be vulnerable to the more severe penalties the RNC introduced for 2016. Still, the option exists, but it is a decision for another time.

For now, Colorado Democrats are headed for March 1 caucuses. That places Colorado caucusgoers behind only Nevadans on the calendar in western state voting.

1 The above link is to the plan from the Colorado Democratic Party site. FHQ will also keep a version of the plan here.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Alabama to March 1, Joins SEC Primary

On Thursday, May 21, the Alabama House passed legislation moving the presidential primary (and those for other offices) up a week to the first Tuesday in March. The measure, SB 240, had already passed the state Senate earlier in the 2015 session.

Both moves, neither of which garnered more than three dissenting votes along the way, cleared the way for the bill to be transmitted to Governor Robert Bentley (R) for his signature. But that signature never came. Instead the bill sat on the governor's desk as the clock ran down on the state legislature's work for 2015.

This is noteworthy because that potentially put the Alabama presidential primary move in pocket veto territory; a bill passed late in the legislative session but not signed before the legislature adjourns. A bill not signed under those circumstances is vetoed. However, the legislative session ended on Thursday, June 4, two weeks after it passed both legislative chambers and was transmitted to the governor. That is close to the end of the session, but not close enough to trigger a pocket veto.

The reason for that is based on two related rules. First, bills passed by the legislature and sent to the governor have six days (not counting Sundays) to be signed. After that a passed bill becomes law without the signature of the governor. Second, due to the six day window created in that rule, only bills passed in the last five days of the legislative session are open to a pocket veto (those passed bills that do not have a full six day window for gubernatorial consideration).

The SEC primary bill was never in any danger of being pocket vetoed, but it did become law after Thursday, May 28 without Governor Bentley's signature. Alabama joins Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas on March 1. Georgia will also be a part of the southern regional primary that can also claim Oklahoma and Virginia. Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont will also conduct primaries or caucuses on that date.

UPDATE (6/9/15, 7:30pm): Odd timing, but news broke (via Mike Cason at AL.com) after the posting of this piece that Governor Bentley signed SB 240 on Wednesday, May 27. That message was apparently not delivered to the Alabama state legislature as of this afternoon (screen grab):

The assignment of an act number seems to only come after a gubernatorial signature (This was the case with the 2011 bill that created a consolidated March primary.) or the expiration of the six day window mentioned above in the original text of the post.

And Secretary of State John Merrill's office press release from late this afternoon indicates that the bill will be signed tomorrow morning at 10am (screen grab):

There's a seemingly weird level of confusion on this one. Regardless, Alabama will have a March 1 presidential primary in 2016.

UPDATE (6/10/15): Ceremonial signing.

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Brownback Signs Legislation Permanently Eliminating Presidential Primary in Kansas

On Monday, June 8, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) signed into law the conference committee report on HB 2104. The omnibus elections package tweaks a number of provisions in the Kansas statutes, but importantly strikes mention of a presidential primary from state election code.

The custom in the Sunflower state for the last two decades has been to cancel the primary one cycle at a time, leaving the April election on the books as an option for future cycles. The new law signed on Monday breaks with that pattern. Neither party in Kansas has utilized the presidential primary election as a means of selecting or allocating delegates to the national convention since 1992. That is five straight presidential election cycles that a presidential primary has existed in the state and been canceled. Kansas parties have opted into a caucus/convention process, but now will not have that option.

Kansas is now locked in as a caucus state (for 2016 and likely beyond barring future action by the legislature). Democrats have already made plans to hold Saturday, March 5 caucuses in 2016. If Kansas Republicans stay true to the form established over the last two cycles, they, too, will conduct caucuses on March 5, the Saturday after Super Tuesday.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Makings of a Deal Emerge in North Carolina Presidential Primary Impasse

The showdown between the North Carolina House and Senate over the positioning of the Tar Heel state presidential primary in 2016 may be in its waning days. According to North Carolina Republican Party Chair Claude Pope (via Jones and Blount), a deal has been reached between the state party and leaders in the General Assembly to move the North Carolina presidential primary back into compliance with national party delegate selection rules.

The details of the deal were not immediately made clear -- specifically the date of the contest -- but news that defenders of the tethered position in the Senate are open to a change is significant. It was on the Republican-controlled Senate side that the amended version of an omnibus elections bill added the presidential primary date change in 2013. With the end of the 2013 session bearing down on them, and with it pressure to get the elections bill through before that adjournment, the Republican-controlled House went along with the date change.

But that decision has put the North Carolina Republican Party in a vulnerable position ever since. A North Carolina presidential primary scheduled on the Tuesday after a February South Carolina primary would put Tar Heel state Republicans in violation of the Republican National Committee rules; most importantly the so-called super penalty that would reduce the size of a state delegation (with 30 or more delegates) to just 12 delegates. In the case of the North Carolina Republican delegation to the 2016 Republican convention in Cleveland that would mean a more than 80% reduction.

That super penalty has been effective during the 2013-15 period in bringing formerly rogue states like Arizona, Florida and Michigan back into compliance with the national party rules. North Carolina, however, has held out to this point.

That looks to be changing though. The House has already passed legislation to shift the North Carolina presidential primary to March 8. In the lead up to that bill's introduction, there was a push, led by Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R), to move the primary back to March 22 to facilitate a winner-take-all primary. Whether that latter option is still on the table remains to be determined. Given that state Senate proponents have valued the earliness of the tethered primary, it would seem that March 8 would likely be the latest date on which they would schedule the primary. But joining the SEC primary on March 1 -- the earliest, compliant date under the rules -- may still be an option as well.

The prognosis for any deal passing the General Assembly would have to be tentatively rated as pretty good. The House bill passed nearly unanimously and as long as the deal sets the primary date on or after March 1, it will likely have the votes of Democrats. The current law has them out of compliance with the Democratic National Committee which places some urgency behind action on their parts as well. Democrats may be in the minority in the North Carolina General Assembly and have options limited to those proposed by Republicans, but they still also have to act to bring about a change.

Thanks to Jonathan Kappler for the heads up on the Jones and Blount story.

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