Thursday, September 3, 2015

Georgia Presidential Primary Set for March 1

This is not surprising news, but the Georgia presidential primary for 2016 is now formally set for March 1, SEC primary day.

Four years ago, the Georgia state legislature -- mimicking the method long used in New Hampshire -- ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary in the Peach state to the secretary of state. The objective was not only to streamline the process of setting the date, but to also buy the state a bit more time in that process. By law, the work of the Georgia legislature is typically done by the beginning of May; one of the earliest adjournment points in the country. That puts Georgia at a disadvantage if other states decide to conduct earlier primaries later in that year leading up to the point at which voters are actually casting ballots in the nomination races.

So, if Florida decides late to move its primary to January, Georgia -- under the old law -- was stuck without any way of also shifting its primary to an advantageous position on the calendar.

But again, that changed in 2011. The secretary of state's office in Georgia gained the ability to set the date of the presidential primary. That made Georgia a bit of a free agent state as the calendar chaos was winding down in September 2011. Then as now, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp waited until September to finalize the date of the contest. Then as now, Secretary Kemp also set the date for the first Tuesday in March.

Unlike 2011, though, this was not much of a surprise. Kemp has spearheaded the entire SEC primary movement for the last couple of years. He has talked up the March 1 date and Georgia's place there throughout the intervening months. However, the election had not been formally set. That changed today.

Georgia is set for March 1. The Peach state will vote then alongside Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. And Georgia trails only Texas in terms of the number of delegates available (in a given state) on March  1.

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