Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Follow Up on the Oregon Primary Bill

FHQ was fortunate enough yesterday and today to have exchanged emails with Tyler Smith, the attorney who spoke on behalf of the Oregon Republican Party at the public hearing on HB 2429 on March 9. As we have discussed here during this week, that bill proposes moving the Oregon primaries -- including the presidential primary -- from the third Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in June. No, that shift is not on the surface all that consequential, moving the Beaver state's primary from late in the presidential nomination process to latest in the presidential nomination process.

However, as is often the case, local factors can play a significant role in shaping a state party's reaction to any elections legislation and that is the situation here. FHQ's statements regarding the points raised in the hearing on HB 2429 were extensions of an Oregon-based blog that left some doubt as to the true nature of both the Republican and Democratic stances on the bill in question. First of all, as Mr. Smith pointed out to me, he was the only one who made any statement at the hearing. The Democratic Party of Oregon has yet to weigh in and the only representative of the party to speak on the matter was House Leader Dave Hunt who co-chairs the committee from which the legislation originated. And that was not necessarily the official position of the state party.

As for the Oregon Republican Party response, it makes more sense given the proper context. Mr. Smith explained that Oregon Republican Party bylaws require the party to have completed the delegate selection process -- a process that is complicated by the fact that the party allocates delegates proportionally --by July 1 (Article XVII, Section A). However, if in 2012, the Oregon presidential primary is on June 12, the results would not be certified until thirty days later, or July 11. As the allocation is proportional, that certification is necessary in order complete the allocation properly. But beyond that, it is less than proper to have allocated delegates ten days after the deadline to have done so. The primary move proposed in HB 2429, then, is a very real problem for the Oregon Republican Party.

Well, why not just change the deadline? Why indeed. Again, let us look to the Oregon Republican Party's bylaws. Changes can only be made at the Biennial Organizational Meeting (Article XXVI, Section A) which occurs between January 1 and February 28 of odd numbered years (Article IV, Section A), a point that has already passed in this presidential election cycle. The party also has the option of make amendments to the bylaws -- presumably including the aforementioned July 1 deadline -- at "duly convened" meeting of the Oregon Republican Party State Central Committee (Article XXVI, Section A). There is time in which to make that change, but it is unclear if the State Central Committee is willing or able to get together to get that done should the bill passed the Oregon legislature and be signed into law.

This really is a fabulous example of the overlap of state party and national party rules with state law. And that in a nutshell is why fundamentally altering the presidential nomination process is so difficult.

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