Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bill Has Nebraska Mulling an Earlier Presidential Primary

...for 2020.

Earlier this week, Nebraska state Senator John Murante (49th, Gretna) introduced legislation -- LB 871 -- that would create a new presidential primary election in the Cornhusker state, separating it from the mid-May, consolidated primary.1 The proposal would move the separate presidential primary to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.

This is not all that unusual. Yes, it is a bit more forward looking than is typically the case. Bills shifting the dates of presidential primaries pop up every year, but they most heavily populate the introduced bills lists in the year before a presidential election. Still, there are always a handful of bills that appear as the primaries themselves are ongoing; during a presidential election year. But over the course of the last three cycles -- 2004, 2008 and 2012 -- nothing has passed.2 In most cases, actors on the state level take a wait and see approach; waiting to see how the current cycle goes before making a decision on a future one.

What is more interesting, though equally forward thinking, is how legislators across the country will react to 2016 in 2017 but especially in 2019. The SEC primary may or may not have proven successful in 2016. If it is, other states and regions may scramble to the front without the southern states moving back, creating a more robust Super Tuesday that resembles a national primary (see 2008). But the SEC primary may fall flat and organically cause actors in some of those states (and others outside the region) to reconsider their positioning or consider what spot on the calendar maximizes their voters' voices in the process.

...something the Nebraska bill's sponsor mentioned as a reason for proposing the change.

1 The move is expected to cost the state $1.5 million if the bill is passed and signed into law.

2 Unless you count Idaho eliminating the presidential primary portion of their May consolidated primary because both parties were caucusing instead.

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