Showing posts with label 2011 state legislative sessions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2011 state legislative sessions. Show all posts

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Impact of 2010 State Governmental Elections on Frontloading: Part Two

Yesterday's post on the prevalence of unified government in state governments following the 2010 elections set the stage for a further examination of the influence that will have on the likelihood of proposed bills that may shift the dates on which presidential primaries and caucuses will be held. Now, there are a fair number of factors that come into play in the frontloading decision-making calculus of any state legislature (or ultimately the state government). For the time being, FHQ will focus on a handful of them.

First, presidential incumbency matters. I found as much in my research [pdf]. Over the 1976-2008 period, those cycles without an incumbent president on the ballot were three times less likely to witness widespread primary movement than in those cycles where both parties had contested nominations. 2012 will be one of those cycles with an incumbent president on the ballot.

What that tells us is that there is potentially a partisan element to all of this. As Philip Klinkner (1994) found in his book on out party committee activity, those parties currently out of the White House are more likely to tinker with their rules -- as a means of shuffling the deck and potentially increasing their likelihood of success -- than those that occupy the White House. In other words, in this cycle we would expect to see the Republicans being less content with the status quo and thus more likely to alter their rules in some fashion. While the Republican Party did allow rules changes (or the exploration of that possibility) outside of the national convention for the first -- a process that led to the adoption of rules requiring states to proportionally allocate delegates in the event a contest is held prior to April -- that effort is not really the point for our purposes here. Instead, we are looking at the secondary actors here: the state governments. To what level are the states willing to, within those rules, make changes to their election laws to impact their influence over the nomination process? When it comes to frontloading, that is the important question to ask. All things equal, the expectation would be that Republican-controlled governments would be more likely frontload than Democratic-controlled state governments.

2012 is a weird cycle, though. After having allowed February primaries, both national parties are now seeking to scale things back in 2012 and are mandating March or later primary and caucus dates for non-exempt states. For the first time, then, the parties are attempting to force states to backload as opposed to allowing them to frontload to a certain point in the past.

That leaves those 18 states currently in violation (see map below) of the national parties' delegate selection rules firmly within the crosshairs. Each has to move back to a later, compliant date or they face the delegation-reducing sanctions both parties are employing. [For the time being, I'll shunt my thoughts on the effectiveness of those sanctions to the side.]

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Those 18 states are either the states most likely to move into compliance or the most likely to thumb their noses at the national party rules in an attempt to influence the nominations. And that brings us full circle. Democratic-controlled state governments (of those 18 states) would tend to fall into the former group while Republican-controlled state governments would be more likely to tempt fate and stick it out despite the looming spectre of sanctions. Two Democratic-controlled states (Arkansas and Illinois) in the last legislative session moved to later dates and a third, California (a newly unified Democratic state government), has a proposal to move its primary back to a later date on the 2012 presidential primary calendar.

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You can begin to see the possible impact here as highlighted by the map above (especially when combined with the partisan maps from part one). The unified state governments would hypothetically be more likely to see some action if they were under Democratic control than if they were under Republican control (seeking greater influence over the nomination) or in the midst of divided control (unable to move into compliance with either national party's delegate selection rules). In other words, there is not only a line between unified and divided state governments, but between states with unified Democratic control and unified Republican control. States like California are more likely to move back, but are unified Republican states like Florida or Georgia more or less likely to move back than states like New York or Missouri with divided government? That will be something for those of us watching to keep our eye on.

The problem with focusing on the states in violation of the national party rules is that it completely disregards states -- particularly unified states -- that are currently compliant but may move to an earlier date valuing influence over the potential costs to their national delegations. Here's where that Texas bill comes into the picture.

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There are obviously states with unified control that may opt to move into violation of the national parties as well. But those states are much more likely to be Republican-controlled than otherwise. Pennsylvania, a state long divided between the parties and incidentally enough unable to move out of April during the post-reform period, may be worth watching along with Texas since both are Republican-controlled.

The point to take home is that while there may be some states that stick it out with primary dates in violation of the national party rules, there will also be far less movement forward than in the past. There will be movement backward, but much of that will likely depend on the presence of unified government in the state and which party is in control.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Impact of 2010 State Governmental Elections on Frontloading: Part One

On Monday, FHQ posted a chronological list of the start dates for all 50 state legislative sessions. Now, from that calendar several factors, as discussed there, could be gleaned that could impact the evolution of the 2012 presidential primary calendar. However, it was only intended as the opening of an incremental assessment of the state of play in the calendar maneuvering that will take place throughout 2011. State legislatures are very much at the nexus of this decision in a majority of states -- those with primaries. As such the partisan composition of those state legislatures is an important point of departure.

The Republican wave that swept over the 111th Congress grabbed a majority of the headlines as did some of the wins the party saw in gubernatorial races. Yet, those GOP advances stretched down-ballot to state legislatures as well. Nationwide that translated into a gain of more than 675 seats across all state legislatures according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Before I get too far into this first step look into the post-2010 partisan composition of state legislatures, or more to the point, whether there is unified or divided government on the state level, I should note that this is but one of many factors that plays a role in determining if a state ultimately opts to shift the date on which its presidential primary is held. In the models I ran in my dissertation research [pdf], I repeatedly found that structural factors had a greater influence a state's propensity to frontload in the 1976-2008 period than what I deemed political factors. In other words, matters such as whether a state held its presidential primary concurrently with its primaries for state and local offices was of greater import than divided government. It should be noted that another political factor, the presence of an incumbent president running for reelection, had a larger impact than either a divided state government (legislature and governor) or a divided legislature. The theory behind all of this is that rationally acting decision makers would utilize a cost/benefit analysis when deciding whether to frontload their primary. Those state-level decision makers with less structural, political, economic and cultural impediments standing in the way of the decision were found to be more likely to have shifted their primary (or caucus) over the period mentioned above.

While inter-chamber partisan division within a legislature would hypothetically serve as a deterrent to frontloading, it was never the statistically significant factor that inter-branch partisan division (between the executive and legislative branches) consistently proved to be.

That said, what impact did the 2010 Republican wave have on the presence of unified or divided government? First, it is instructive to examine the executive and legislative chamber flips in partisan control during the 2010 elections.

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Understandably, this is a map that trends red, but only shows two instances (Maine and Wisconsin) where the Republican Party gained control of the executive branch and both the upper and lower chambers of the legislature. Overall, the map does not tell us much more than the map the National Conference of State Legislatures provides other than the fact that it adds gubernatorial gains to the equation. But let's add in a map that shows the prevalence of unified government and then create a hybrid of the two that demonstrates not only the presence of Republican-controlled unified government, but the gains made on that front during 2010.

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Again, this second map shows us the extent to which unified government extended following the 2010 elections. On the surface, the midterms proved to be a boon to Republican fortunes nearly nationwide. It would, theoretically, have an impact not only on frontloading but on redistricting as well. Unified Republican-control on the state level translates into fewer hurdles between a party making congressional seat gains through redistricting or making an advantageous move of a primary ahead of a presidential nomination cycle that will only see a competitive Republican race.

But what was the impact of 2010?

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Well, the state that already had unified government prior to 2010 are shaded in either dark red or blue. The gains in unified control by either party are in the lighter shades. If we were a truly enterprising blog, FHQ would go ahead an layer in the new electoral college map as a means of discerning the states where unified control was established and where redistricting will have to take place. Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are the big ones on that front and sadly for the Democratic Party, California is neither redistricted by its state legislature nor did it gain any seats in the latest reapportionment. Redistricting aside, however, this series of maps does set the stage for an examination of how the partisan shifts in control at the state level will potentially impact the frontloading process during the 2011 state legislative sessions.

With so many states now under unified Republican control and with the Republican nomination being the only contested race, the potential exists for quite a lot of primary movement. But FHQ will delve into that tomorrow with a wider discussion of other factors that could influence state legislative decision making in terms of presidential primary timing.

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