Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Missouri House Bill Introduced to Move Presidential Primary to March

Republicans in the Missouri House yesterday introduced a bill (HB 503) to move the Show Me state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. Missouri now becomes the sixth state scheduled to have a February or earlier contest to introduce legislation to shift its presidential primary back to the national parties' newly designated first Tuesday in March starting line.

The bill was introduced by House Elections Committee chair, Tony Dugger, and was co-sponsored by 14 other Republican representatives. Among that 14 were five of the six other Republican members of the Elections Committee; the committee to which the bill will most likely be referred. With a nearly two to one Republican to Democrat ratio in the House, this is a bill that will likely not require any bipartisan support until it gets to Governor Jay Nixon's desk -- assuming it passes both Republican-controlled Houses first. Of course, as the only Democratic check within the state government -- in terms of presidential primary timing -- Nixon would be compelled by Rule 20.C.7 of the 2012 Democratic Delegate Selection Rules to sign legislation bringing the state's nominating contest back into compliance with those rules. Not doing so could open the Democratic Party in the state to additional penalties from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. That scenario, however, is unlikely.

One other additional note about this bill concerns its language. The terminology is slightly different from the language witnessed in other similar legislation in other states, but the meaning is essentially the same. By inserting "after the first Monday" into this segment of the election law, Missouri legislators are setting up a situation where they could fall a week after the earliest allowed date (should it continue to be the first Tuesday in March) when and if the first Tuesday in March falls on March 1. While states like Oklahoma, Virginia and Tennessee would continue to hold contests on the first Tuesday of March, Missouri would have to wait until the first Monday has passed in order to hold their presidential primary. Again, this would not occur all that often.

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