Thursday, April 25, 2019

New York Democrats Signal an April Presidential Primary

After a one cycle departure, it appears as if New York will rejoin the late April Acela primary for 2020.

Empire state Democrats have indicated in the party's draft delegate selection plan that the 2020 presidential primary -- currently scheduled for February 41-- will fall on April 28. That would once again align the New York primary with primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. That mid-Atlantic/northeastern regional primary formed in the aftermath of the 2008 cycle when New York, Connecticut and Delaware all held February primaries that, while allowed under national party rules in 2008, would have been in violation in 2012 under the new rules in both parties. Those moved to late April to coincide with the traditional Pennsylvania primary date and were joined by Rhode Island (which had a more modest move from March to April).

That changed in 2016. Most of the Acela primary states held pat, but New York pushed forward a week to mid-April. Democrats in the state did not want the primary to fall in the middle of the Passover commemoration. The remaining four states, however, were joined by Maryland. But without New York, the grouping was a noncontiguous five state regional primary.

That is important because there are incentives built into the Democratic delegate selection process. New York benefited in 2016 from holding an April primary. The delegation from the Empire state got a 10 percent boost. But by breaking from the other states, New York Democrats missed out on an additional 15 percent bonus for clustering with two or more neighbors. Additionally, New York's move affected Connecticut and Rhode Island. By cutting the two northeastern off from those in the mid-Atlantic, it cost Connecticut and Rhode Island the clustering bonus laid out in the Democratic call for the convention.

With New York hypothetically back in late April as the bridge between Connecticut and Rhode Island in the northeast and Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania in the mid-Atlantic, all six states would be in line for a 25 percent bonus -- 10 percent for April primaries and 15 percent for a clustering of three or more contiguous states -- to their base apportionment of delegates. That would take a six state group with 543 pledged delegates and increase the total by roughly 120 delegates (across all six states). That is more than double the number of bonus delegates that California lost in its more from June 2016 to March 2020. And significantly, that is a large chunk of delegates at stake in an area of the calendar where presumptive nominees have emerged. But those presumptive nominees have not typically broken the 50 percent plus one delegate barrier by that point. Rather, the gap in the delegate count has been sufficiently large (considering the remaining delegates to be allocated) to force the remaining viable competition from the race. Both Romney and Trump benefited from the Acela primary cluster in 2012 and 2016, respectively. However, that regional primary played less a role in the one-on-one 2016 Democratic nomination race. Sanders lingered well after that point, competing against the delegate math through the end of primary season.

That may be a lot to digest, but the delegate math -- both the overall trajectory in primary season and the bonuses to the state party -- seem to have figured into the primary date decision making within the New York state Democratic party. Of course, this remains unofficial until the legislature in New York makes the change. Typically the legislature waits on input from the state parties with respect to what a compliant date would be relative to the national party rules and then introduces and passes a bill in the late spring. That step remains in this process.

New York's position and those of other states can be found on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

1 While the New York presidential primary is currently scheduled to coincide with the February spring primary, it is only a placeholder on the calendar to which the primary reverts every cycle. The standard operating procedure that has emerged in the Empire state over the last several cycles has seen the state legislature set the primary for April, but also make the change temporary. The date change typically sunsets at the end of the presidential election year and returns the primary to February.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

New legislation introduced on April 23 would reestablish a presidential primary in Maine and schedule the election for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March; Super Tuesday.

LD 1626 now becomes the third bill to reestablish a presidential primary election in the Pine Tree state this legislative session. And it follows a successful, albeit temporary, reestablishment during the 2016 session that had a sunset provision that expired toward the end of 2018. Of the three bills, the latest is the most streamlined. It strips out the secretary of state discretion for scheduling a presidential primary from LD 245 and removes the ranked choice components from LD 1083.

The new legislation calls for the state party committees to notify the secretary of state whether there is a contested presidential nomination by November 1 of the year prior to the presidential election. And the secretary of state then begins preparation for a primary for the party or parties with active races for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.

Senator Louis Luchini (D-7th, Hancock) introduced this legislation alongside nine other co-sponsors of both parties. Whether this is meant to serve as a replacement to Luchini's earlier bill (LD 245) and/or if this is the bill promised by the secretary of state's office back in February remain open questions. But the bill would reestablish a presidential primary in Maine and schedule it for Super Tuesday.

The new Maine legislation has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

2/9/19: Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Wyoming Democrats Will Caucus in March

...but the specific date remains TBD.

At the tail end of March, the Wyoming Democratic Party quietly released the proposed details of its 2020 delegate selection process. The draft delegate selection plan is more modest compared to some of the changes offered up in other caucus states. Whereas the majority of the remaining caucus states are exploring some variation of party-run primaries (Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota) and/or ranked choice voting (Iowa, Nevada), Democrats in Wyoming are keeping the caucus/convention process in the Equality state in line in most respects with the process the party has utilized in past cycles.

Much of it, however, remains an unknown until after the Wyoming Democratic Party state central committee meeting on April 27. For instance, much is unsaid -- in fact it is literally left out -- about efforts at increasing participation as called for in Rule 2 on the DNC delegate selection rules for 2020. Those blanks will (likely) be filled in after the SCC meeting.

What is known about the process is that Wyoming Democrats will once again conduct caucuses for the 2020 cycle and those will fall some time in March; up to a month earlier than the April 9 caucuses the party held in 2016.

Additionally, the party will pool all of their 13 delegates in the selection process. Instead of applying the 15 percent threshold to district, at-large and party leaders/elected official delegates -- three separate, individual applications -- as is customary, Wyoming Democrats will apply it only once to the 13 delegate pool. It is a small change in a small delegate state, but one that could have an effect on allocation on the margins. At most it affect the rounding for who would get delegates and who does not (and how many). This one will be worth monitoring as it works its way through the review process. How receptive the Rules and Bylaws Committee is to that transition in the rules remains an open question. But again, the shift breaks with how allocation is typically done in the Democratic process. There is far more pooling of delegates in the Republican process.

The Wyoming caucuses change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Signs Delaware Presidential Primary is Staying Put

Back in January, FHQ, discussing prospective primary movement during the 2019 state legislative sessions convening across the country, highlighted the group of mid-Atlantic/northeastern states that have seeming settled in late April since the 2012 cycle. Under Democratic control, states like Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island not only moved away from February presidential primary dates leftover from the 2008 cycle, but moved deeper into the calendar for the 2012 cycle and have stayed there.

That made more sense in 2012 when Barack Obama was seeking renomination on the Democratic side -- the stakes were lower and the costs of a later primary less -- but that group of Acela corridor states maintained their April positions despite an open nomination in 2016. Now, it could be argued that during the time that primary date changes were being considered by state legislatures in 2015, Hillary Clinton was a prohibitive favorite to win the 2016 nomination. States with Democrats in control of state government, in turn, may have been less likely to make any changes to the presidential primary date.

But the outlook for the 2020 nomination is and has been a wide open race. Yet, in none of those states, save New York (which operates under a unique set of circumstances), have made any moves toward a presidential primary change. All has been quiet. And that silence typically will signal no primary movement.

However, there has been an additional signal out of Delaware. No, there is no proposed presidential primary date change, but for the second consecutive state legislative session in the First state, there is an effort underway to attempt to align the September primaries for state and local offices with the presidential primary in April. HB 89 passed the state House in Delaware in 2017, but died in the state Senate. And now in 2019, HB 41, a nearly identical proposal, has so far followed a similar trajectory. The plan to consolidate state primaries with the April presidential primary flew through the state House in January, but has again hit the wall in the state Senate.

The legislative session adjourns in June and the bill still has time to work its way through the state Senate, but the proposed move is less important for the move than it is for the anchor point on the calendar.1 Linking those primaries for state and local offices to the presidential primary in Delaware is the clearest active effort among those April Acela primary state signaling a non-movement. The others have been more passive at this point.

As of now, Delaware is scheduled to have an April 28 presidential primary on the latter half of the 2020 presidential primary calendar.

1 Delaware was a late mover in 2011, the last time the state shifted its presidential primary date. That legislation was passed toward the end of the legislative session that cycle.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Utah Democrats Will Use New Presidential Primary Option for 2020

With the release of a draft of its 2020 delegate selection plan, the Utah Democratic Party has confirmed that it will utilize the new presidential primary signed into law recently by Governor Gary Herbert (R).

The confirmation means that Utah Democrats will return to a primary for delegate allocation for the first time since the 2008 cycle. The state party opted for caucuses in 2012 when there was no national party rules-compliant primary option. The February date in state statute was too early and the late June option added that cycle for state Republicans was too late. Both parties used caucuses in 2016 when the presidential primary was not funded by the state.

Like the last time Utah Democrats used a primary for delegate allocation in 2008, the election will fall on Super Tuesday. In the Democratic delegate apportionment formula, Utah is not delegate-rich, falling behind ten of the 13 states now slated to hold delegate selection events on Super Tuesday.

Finally, in the switch from 2016 caucuses to 2020 primary, Utah becomes part of another trend. The Beehive state now joins Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska and Washington state as states to have opted into state government-run primary elections for the 2020 cycle.

The Utah Democratic Party decision opt into the primary will be reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

2/25/19: Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

3/7/19: Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

3/11/19 (a): Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah

3/11/19 (b): Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

3/14/19: Utah House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

4/1/19: Utah Presidential Primary Shifts to Super Tuesday

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Washington State Democrats Opt for Presidential Primary Over Caucuses

It was decision time this past weekend as the Washington State Democratic Party convened in Pasco. Among the items on the agenda was delegate selection in 2020. Chiefly, the question before the Rules Committee on Saturday and the State Coordinating Committee on Sunday was whether the party would continue to use the caucus/convention system it has used to allocate and select delegates to the national convention throughout the post-reform era.

But a newly early and revamped semi-open presidential primary bill signed into law in March removed most of the conflicts the Democratic Party in the Evergreen state have historically had with the primary option available to Washington parties in the past. Moreover, the state party has been facing pressure from vocal Democrats in the state to make the process more democratic; something that was demonstrated by the over 93 percent support for the primary option in an unscientific poll open during the draft delegate selection plan public comment period. On top of that, the national party rules for the 2020 cycle urge state parties to increase participation and use state-run primaries where available.

In total, that was enough to nudge the Washington State Democratic Party to break with tradition. By a vote of 11-5 on Saturday, the Rules Committee recommended that the party shift to the primary option. That was followed on Sunday by 121-40 vote by the State Coordinating Committee in favor of a primary.

The decision officially moves Washington Democrats into a March 10 slot on the 2020 presidential primary calendar. That primary will coincide with contests in six other states including the primary in neighboring Idaho.

The Washington primary change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ Presidential Primary Calendar.

1/16/19: Washington State Legislation Would Again Try to Move Presidential Primary to March

Friday, April 5, 2019

DC Council Eyes Earlier Primary with New Bill

Last week the Democratic Party in Washington, DC released for public comment its draft delegate selection plan for 2020. However, one of the details missing from the document was a date for the planned presidential primary in the district. That is all the more unusual because the primary date set in district statute.

But there are at least a couple of catches with the third Tuesday in June date outlined in the law. First, that date is too late in the calendar and thus non-compliant under national party rules. The district party would face penalties from both national parties if it chose to allocate delegates through a primary scheduled so close to the convention. Alternatively, it might force one or both major parties in the district to shift to a caucus/convention as DC Republicans did for 2016.

What has also given DC Democrats pause in filling in the primary date in the delegate selection plan is that there is some uncertainty about where on the calendar the primary will land. Yes, the date is currently set, but the DC Council is considering a change. Only, the change is not nearly as dramatic as some of the Democratic members of the Council were speculating about during a February meeting of the DC Democratic Party district central committee. Back then there was talk of aligning the DC presidential primary with the primaries in Maryland and Pennsylvania at the end of April.

Now, however, there has been a bill introduced in the DC Council to move the primary, but not into April. Instead, the plan laid out in B23-0212 is to nudge the DC primary up to the first Tuesday in June in presidential years (leaving the primary in midterm years to remain on the third Tuesday in June). This is a modest shift but it would be enough to move the DC presidential primary back into compliance with the national party rules.

One footnote to add to the predicament in which the DC parties and Council find themselves, is that if this shift is successful it would represent the second change to the DC primary schedule since 2017. The Council made the decision in 2018 to move the primary from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June. In other words, one step back was needed to move two steps forward.

7/19/19: Earlier June Presidential Primary Move Inches Forward in DC

5/6/19: Committee Hearing Finds Both DC Parties in Favor of a Presidential Primary Move

2/7/19: DC Presidential Primary on the Move Again?

5/15/18:  Washington, DC Eases Back a Week on the Calendar

The Washington, DC presidential primary bill has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pair of Bills Seek to Move Illinois Presidential Primary

Earlier this session, there were a couple of bills introduced in the Illinois state House to move the date on which the general primary election is held. The thing about tracking the movement of presidential primaries is that one has to adapt to the differences across states in terms of what each calls its presidential primary elections. In the case of Illinois, the state has traditionally held a third Tuesday in March primary that is not only the date for the presidential primary but those for other state and federal offices as well. It is a consolidated primary every even-numbered year.

And it should be additionally noted that the general primary in Illinois has only been on a date other than the third Tuesday in March in a presidential year once in the post-reform era. That was during the 2008 cycle when then-Illinois senator, Barack Obama, was seeking the Democratic nomination. Illinois, then, has been less likely to uproot its consolidated general primary election and shift it to an alternate date.

Moreover, that fact is also relevant when trying to handicap the likelihood of passage for any bill with the goal of moving the general primary away from that traditional third Tuesday in March date. Attempts after the 2011 move back the traditional March date have generally languished in committee and died at the end of legislative sessions. That was true of a push by one legislator to move the consolidated primary to June in both 2013 and 2015 and again in 2017. It was also true of a 2015 bill to move the primary into July as well. And it was true again of 2018 legislation that proposed a marginal move to the first Tuesday in April that also failed.

Now the 2019 session has brought two more bills once again promoting a change in the general primary date. One, HB 3476, represents a subtle change to the existing law. It would keep the primary in March and even keep it in the third week in March. The only change is to push the primary back from a Tuesday to the third Saturday in March. The other, HB 2531, is more in line with the repetitive 2013-2017 attempts to ease the primary into June. Although the 2019 version is by a different legislator -- this time a Republican rather than a Democrat -- and calls for a third Tuesday in June primary. While that is a week earlier than the bills from recent past sessions, it would still place the Illinois presidential primary just outside of the window in which states and territories are allowed by the national parties to hold primaries.

Neither 2019 bill has seen any significant action following February introductions. One can draw from that what one may, but if past is prelude to either effort, then they are unlikely to advance. And that means that Illinois is most likely to retain its traditional March date.

The Illinois presidential primary bills have been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

Utah Presidential Primary Shifts to Super Tuesday

On Wednesday, March 27, Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed SB 242 into law.

The bill reestablished and the law now explicitly schedules a presidential primary in the Beehive state for the first Tuesday in March during presidential election years. Utah will rejoin Super Tuesday for the first time since the 2008 cycle when the primary coincided with a de facto national primary day with over twenty contests in both parties.

Utah at this time becomes the thirteenth state to schedule a primary or caucus for Super Tuesday. Of the 13, Utah will have fewer delegates at stake in the Democratic process than ten of the Super Tuesday states or territories. Only Vermont and Democrats Abroad will offer fewer delegates on Super Tuesday. Typically, that has been a combination -- few delegates at stake on a date that offers many more delegate-rich states -- that has led to smaller states getting lost in the shuffle.

The Utah presidential primary change will be reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

2/25/19: Legislation Would Push Reestablished Utah Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

3/7/19: Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Utah

3/11/19 (a): Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee Stage in Utah

3/11/19 (b): Utah Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

3/14/19: Utah House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

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