Monday, March 23, 2020

Rhode Island Primary Moves to June 2 Following Executive Order

Following the recommendation of the Rhode Island Board of Elections last week, Governor Gina Raimondo (D) issued on Monday, March 23 an executive order moving the Ocean state presidential primary from April 28 to June 2.

Rhode Island becomes the eighth state to move away from a pre-scheduled presidential primary in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is the fourth state so far to land on June 2. Pending decisions in Ohio and Pennsylvania, potentially among others, June 2 now offers 489 delegates to the Democratic national convention in July.

Yes, this change only moves 26 pledged delegates back five weeks on the calendar, but it does have some impact on the delegate selection process. While the election of district delegates will be minimally affect -- all 18 of them are elected directly on the primary ballot -- something will have to give in the sequence for selecting the statewide delegates. At-large and PLEO delegates are due to be selected by the Rhode Island Democratic party state committee on May 17.

There are a handful of issues attendant to that date of selection. First of all, district delegates are typically selected before statewide delegates. To go ahead with the May 17 selection would mean that statewide delegates would be chosen before the district delegates on the now-June 2 primary ballot. Second, Rhode Island is in the fortunate position of having empowered the state committee rather than a state convention to select statewide delegates. It is easier to reschedule that meeting or have it remotely than to do either with a larger state convention.

However, the state committee will have a decision to make regarding statewide delegate selection. They could on the one hand press forward with the May 17 meeting and select for each of the active candidates slates of delegates for each of the eight statewide delegate positions and fill any allocated in the June 2 primary after its results are certified. Alternatively, they could push the meeting of the state committee back from May 17 to a calendar spot after the June 2 primary.

Regardless, Rhode Island Democrats will have some decisions to make in terms of how the delegate selection process will proceed. But at least it is in just one facet of the process -- statewide delegates -- rather than adjusting for the whole delegation.

Beyond that, the secretary of state will also be working with local elections officials to accommodate a "predominantly" mail-in primary, one that provides in-person options for those with disabilities (and any other need for accommodation) and mail-in options for everyone else.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea's press release on the Rhode Island presidential primary change archived here.

1 ConnecticutGeorgiaIndianaKentuckyLouisianaMaryland and Ohio all have moved from March or April dates to later May and June calendar positions.

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