Friday, January 11, 2019

Pair of Oregon Bills Would Move Primary to March, but with a Twist

In what may, in part, be the opening salvo in the 2019 legislation affecting the 2020 presidential primary calendar, Oregon has a couple of interesting bills prefiled and ready for when the legislature in the Beaver state convenes later this month.

Both bills seek to move the Oregon primary from the third Tuesday in May up to the second Tuesday in March not just in presidential election years but in all even-numbered years. This differs from when Oregon shifted in the past (for 1996) or when attempts were made in the recent past to move the primary (2007 and 2015). In those instances, the presidential primary was split from the May primary for other offices and moved (or proposed to be moved) to March or earlier dates. In 2019, the legislation proposes moving everything up to March, thus saving the expense of funding a new and stand-alone presidential primary.

However, both 2019 bills offer a twist on this scheduling.

HB 2107 calls for a move the second Tuesday in March, but also is a bit more provocative in giving the Oregon secretary of state the discretion to change the would-be standardized March date "if the date change will result in the primary election being held seven or more days after the date on which the first primary election held during that election cycle is held in any other state."

In other words, this is a bill that could threaten New Hampshire if it becomes law.

If the first primary -- New Hampshire's -- is seven or more days before the second Tuesday in March -- it always is -- then the Oregon secretary of state would have the discretion to move the primary and time before December 1 of the year prior to a presidential election. Ostensibly, the intention is for the secretary of state to have the discretion to move forward on the calendar, but he or she would also have the ability to move the primary back. That is not something -- at least in the introduced version of this legislation that is prohibited.

The second bill -- HB 2279 -- is similar but less provocative. At the request of the secretary of state, this legislation was introduced and would not only move the primary from May to the second Tuesday in March, but it would allow the secretary of state to join a regional primary if two or more states from among Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, or Washington wind up clustered on a date other than the second Tuesday in March. Nevada will be among the carve-out states in February and California already has a primary scheduled for the first Tuesday in March. But Idaho is is currently stationed on the second Tuesday in March and Washington has eyed that position in the past. Utah also has a primary option, but a date has not been settled on yet.

It look as though the second Tuesday in March could end up as post-California/Super Tuesday western states/PAC 12 regional primary spot.

But first the Oregon legislature has to act on this legislation and other pieces elsewhere have to fall into place. The Oregon part of the equation will become clearer when the legislature convenes on January 22.

The Oregon legislation will be added to the evolving FHQ 2020 Presidential Primary Calendar.

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