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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