Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Update: 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar (8/13/13)

The changed date of the North Carolina primary has caused a bit of a shake up to the 2016 presidential primary calendar. And the alteration -- culminating with the bill being signed into law yesterday -- seems to have been inadvertently yet maximally timed to coincide with national party meetings that will address the 2016 delegate selection rules later this week (Republicans) or later this month (Democrats). This will give the parties something to think about even if the change is only somewhat minimal, affecting the best case scenario calendar the parties envision. Long term, the move in the Tarheel state could inspire subsequent copycat moves that could further affect that best case scenario.

[Find the calendar's permanent home here. There is a link to the 2016 calendar in the upper left corner of the page as well.]

  • North Carolina no longer coincides with the Indiana primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May. Instead, the North Carolina presidential primary is now conditionally anchored to the South Carolina primary. If -- and this if is a given -- the South Carolina primary falls on a date prior to March 15, the North Carolina primary will be scheduled for the Tuesday following that. In other words, according to the new North Carolina law, the Tarheel state presidential primary will be in February at the latest. When in February is the question now. 
  • The North Carolina action is enough for FHQ to now add the carve-out states to the calendar in tentative albeit best case scenario positions. By best case scenario, FHQ means the latest these states would be on the calendar given what we know about where other states are currently positioned and the spacing the carve-out states have preferred between their contests and others in past cycles. 
  • The map has also added a new shading element to account for the options available to some states that may be at the beginning of the calendar (see footnotes on Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah below) and where that is likely to force the carve-out states. 
Why are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina (and North Carolina as well) where they are on the calendar below? The FHQ 2016 presidential primary calendar now reflects the best case scenario calendar given where state law currently positions states and past precedent for how the carve-out states have reacted to provocative maneuvers in potentially rogue states. Importantly, this current best case scenario assumes the following: 
[a] Both Colorado parties opt for the March 1 caucuses date instead of the February 2 date. Both are allowed by state law. 
[b] Minnesota parties agree to a compliant caucus date before March 1, 2015, thus avoiding an automatic scheduling of the caucuses for the first Tuesday in February 2016. 
[c] The Missouri General Assembly actually changes the first Tuesday in February date of the presidential primary in the Show Me state, or barring that [again], the state parties opt into compliant caucuses as Missouri Republicans did in 2012. 
[d] The Utah legislature either decides not to fund the first Tuesday in February presidential primary or shifts back that date in the statute. 
[e] South Carolina parties maintain their desire for a seven day buffer between their primaries and the contest(s) in any other southern state. 
That means Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah are not threats. They are out of the way as far as the carve-out states are concerned. However, considering the new law regarding the North Carolina presidential primary, North Carolina would then violate the terms of the fifth (South Carolina) assumption above. With South Carolina typically choosing a Saturday primary date, a North Carolina primary on the Tuesday just three days later would not pass muster with the parties in its neighbor to the south.

As has been mentioned in this space previously, the South Carolina parties would have some tools to utilize; especially on the Republican side. According to the current RNC rules, all four carve-out states have the month prior to the next earliest contest in which to schedule their own delegate selection events. But the North Carolina law anchors the North Carolina primary to the scheduling of the South Carolina primary. To some extent that does tie the hands of the state party decision makers in the Palmetto state. Those same primary date decision makers -- again, on the Republican side but with possible implications for South Carolina Democrats -- could also hide behind the new protections nestled in the Republican delegate selection rules: the super penalty. That leads to the final assumption:
[f] South Carolina would schedule its primary for a date that would automatically trigger the super penalty on North Carolina if the law in the Tarheel state remains unchanged or the state parties there do not opt into a caucus/convention system as Missouri Republicans did in 2012. 
To accomplish that, the South Carolina parties could schedule their primaries for as late as Saturday, February 13, 2016. That would position the North Carolina primary on Tuesday, February 16, a date open to the super penalty under Republican rules. Please note that Tuesday, February 23 is not a date affected by the super penalty. That is the last penalty-free point of the calendar currently and why the Arizona and Michigan primaries are very unlikely to move from their state law-mandated positions. South Carolina could opt for Saturday, February 20, but there would be no penalty on North Carolina for a primary three days later. Such a move does not help decision makers in South Carolina. 

If South Carolina falls on February 13, then:
[a] The Nevada caucuses would or could be a week earlier on Saturday, February 6
[b] New Hampshire would then fall in line on the next earliest Tuesday that would give the state/secretary of state the seven days necessary to comply with state law ("seven days before any other similar contest"). The primary in the Granite state could not be scheduled for Tuesday, February 2 as that is only four days before the Nevada caucuses. These states had a similar dispute in 2011. The next earliest and compliant date for New Hampshire, then, is Tuesday, January 26
[c] And all of that means the Iowa caucuses would have enough calendar space to precede New Hampshire by its customary eight days, unlike in both 2008 and 2012. That places Iowa on Monday, January 18
In all, then, the North Carolina action only pushed the starting point in the best case scenario calendar up by a week since the last FHQ calendar update in June

Now, if any or all of the states (Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and/or Utah) fail to act as assumed above, then the best case scenario becomes the worst case scenario outlined in June:
  • Saturday, January 2: Iowa caucuses
  • Tuesday, January 5: New Hampshire primary
  • Saturday, January 16: Nevada caucuses
  • Saturday, January 23: South Carolina primary
  • Tuesday, January 26: North Carolina primary
  • Tuesday, February 2: Colorado caucuses, Minnesota caucuses, Missouri primary, Utah primary
And that scenario puts the national parties right back to the square one they have attempted to avoid since 2008.


Reading the Map:
As was the case with the maps from past cycles, the earlier a contest is scheduled in 2012, the darker the color in which the state is shaded. Arizona, for instance, is a much deeper shade of blue in February than California is in June. There are, however, some differences between the earlier maps and the one that appears above.
  1. Several caucus states have yet to select a date for the first step of their delegate selection processes in 2016. Until a decision is made by state parties in those states, they will appear in gray on the map.
  2. The states where legislation to move the presidential primary is active are two-toned with wide, diagonal stripes. One color indicates the timing of the primary according to the current law whereas the second color is meant to highlight the month to which the primary could be moved. For example, a bill currently being considered in Massachusetts would move the presidential primary from its current position in March to a new spot on the calendar in June. 
  3. Other states -- the carve-out states and states with state laws providing guidance for setting a primary or caucuses date but no specific date or multiple specified dates -- are also two-toned with narrow, horizontal stripes. In this case, one color (gray) represents the uncertainty of the primary or caucuses date now while the other color (or colors) highlight the options available to states or the most likely date for a contest in that state given the information we currently have. So, in Iowa, for instance, we know that the state parties in the Hawkeye state will want to protect the first in the nation status they have enjoyed in the past. To maintain that position alone, Iowa could now conduct its precinct caucuses as late as January 18, 2016. In a state like Utah, the primary itself is dependent on the state legislature allocating funds for that purpose. Should legislators in the Beehive state follow through on that action for 2016, the primary would be in early February. That explains the color in both instances. 
  4. States that are bisected vertically are states where the state parties have different dates for their caucuses and/or primaries. The left hand section is shaded to reflect the state Democratic Party's scheduling while the right is for the state Republican Party's decision on the timing of its delegate selection event (see Nebraska). This holds true for states -- typically caucus states -- with a history of different dates across parties but which also have not yet chosen a contest date.
Reading the calendar:
  1. Note that if you click on the state name in the calendar below, the link will take you to the relevant section of the state's law or party's bylaws covering the date of the primary or caucus.
  2. Links to discussions of 2013 state-level legislation addressing the dates of future presidential primaries have also been added (see 2013 Legislation in the calendar).
  3. Markers have also been added indicating whether legislation has become law or has died at some point in the legislative process. 

2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

Monday, January 18:
Iowa caucuses1 (***tentative given current information***)

Tuesday, January 26: 
New Hampshire (***tentative given current information***)

Tuesday, February 2:
Missouri (2013 Legislation: March primary: House/Senate, April primary -- all Died in Committee)
Utah4 (2013 Legislation: Primary funding -- Signed into Law)

Saturday, February 6:
Nevada caucuses (***tentative given current information***)

Saturday, February 13:
South Carolina (***tentative given current information***)

Tuesday, February 16: 
North Carolina (***tentative given current information***)

Tuesday, February 23:
Tuesday, March 1:
Florida5 (2013 Legislation: March primary -- Died in CommitteePrimary on first unpenalized date -- Signed into Law)
Massachusetts (2013 legislation: June primary)
Texas (2013 Legislation: Saturday primaryFebruary primary -- all Died in Committee)

Tuesday, March 8:

Tuesday, March 15:

Saturday, March 19:

Tuesday, April 5:
Washington, DC (2013 Legislation: June primary)

Tuesday, April 26:

Tuesday, May 3:

Tuesday, May 10:

Tuesday, May 17:

Tuesday, May 24:

Tuesday, June 7:
Montana (2013 Legislation: May primary -- Died in Committee)

Primary states with no specified date:
Maine (2013 Legislation: establish primary -- Died in Committee)
Nevada8 (2013 Legislation: January primary -- Died in Committee)
New Hampshire
South Carolina

Without dwelling on something that is WELL before its time, FHQ should note that those February states are only problematic in 2016 if the two parties' delegates selection rules mirror the rules from the 2012 cycle. They may or may not. The real problem children, if you will, are the primary states without specified dates for 2016. As of June 2013 they remain the free agents for the 2016 primary calendar and the ones that may bear the most intense watching between now and mid-2015. That said, first things first: The first step is a set of rules from the DNC and RNC. We have a ways to go before the parties settle on/finalize something on that front (summer 2014). The Republican Party is further along in its process than are the Democrats.

1 This date does conflict with the Martin Luther King Day holiday in 2016. As John Deeth points out in the comments section that is an issue that was a source of some discontent among Iowa Democrats when the caucuses and holiday overlapped in 2004. If that is an issue again in 2016, it may affect the date of the caucuses above. Moving it up further would perhaps push the envelope a bit too much, but the state parties may opt to hold the caucuses on a Tuesday -- a week before New Hampshire on January 19 -- as they did in 2012. 
2 The state parties have the option of choosing either the first Tuesday in March date called for in the statute or moving up to the first Tuesday in February.
3 The state parties must agree on a date on which to hold caucuses by March 1 in the year prior to a presidential election. If no agreement is reached, the caucuses are set for the first Tuesday in February.
4 The Western States Presidential Primary in Utah is scheduled for the first Tuesday in February, but the contest will only be held on that date if the state legislature decides to allocate funds for the primary.
5 Democratic-sponsored legislation would establish a specific date for the Florida presidential primary; the second Tuesday in March. 
6 See definition of "Spring primary" for clause dealing with the timing of the presidential primary.
7 Kansas has not held a presidential primary since 1992. Funds have not been appropriated by the legislature for the primary since that time. That said, there are laws in place providing for a presidential preference primary. Assuming funding, the Kansas secretary of state has the option of choosing a date -- on or before November 1 in the year preceding the presidential election -- that either coincides with at least 5 other states' delegate selection events or is on the first Tuesday in April or before.
8 A Republican-sponsored bill during the 2013 session of the Nevada legislature would create a consolidated primary (presidential primary together with state primaries) and move the contest from June to January.
9 The North Carolina primary is now scheduled for the Tuesday following the South Carolina primary if the South Carolina contest is prior to March 15. Given the protected status South Carolina enjoys with the national parties, a primary prior to March 15 is a certainty for both parties in the Palmetto state. The link to the North Carolina statute does not yet reflect the change made to the presidential primary law. Language laying out the parameters for the primary can be found in the bill (HB 589) recently signed into law.

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John said...

Iowan here. January 18 puts us on the MLK holiday which caused a little rank and file grumbling when it happened in 2004 and then again in the 2006 off-year cycle (we have caucuses in off years too). I think the party leadership would accept that grumbling in 2016 if First depended on it.

Josh Putnam said...


The point is well taken on the potential for griping in Iowa over the conflict with the MLK Day holiday.

However, all I can think about is the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (at least some senior members) reaction to Florida situations in the 2007-2012 era. Florida Democrats forcefully denied that the state party could hold caucuses as a means of dealing with the "too early" primary debacle in 2008.

But the DNC RBC members I've spoken with were very quick to point out post-2012 that Florida Democrats were able to hold caucuses in 2012. They were ready to shove that back in the faces of Florida Democrats should Sunshine state Republicans in control in the state fail to comply with national party rules again.

That anecdote seems important in this context as well. The RBC would be very quick to respond to any discontent in Iowa over an MLK conflict with a "but you were able to make it work in 2004 (and 2006)" retort.

Plus I think both national parties would be very hesitant about listening to any such complaints when Iowa would still be first under that scenario. Iowa could always hold the caucuses on a Tuesday as it did in 2012 if the MLK thing was that big of a deal.

I'll add a caveat about the potential for a conflict to the Iowa position on the calendar. Thanks again for pointing that out.