Showing posts with label 2021 state legislative session. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2021 state legislative session. Show all posts

Friday, March 19, 2021

Oregon Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

Legislation introduced earlier this month in Oregon would push the Beaver state's typical mid-May primary up to the first Tuesday in March.

SB 785, authored by Sen. Lee Beyer (D-6th, Springfield) resembles in part a bill from the last legislative session in 2019 which would have similarly moved the presidential primary up to Super Tuesday. However, the 2021 bill would move the entire consolidated primary -- including those for other offices -- into March in presidential election years only. The measure would additionally shift back the date on which the legislative session would commence in those years from February to May. The latter change also differs from the 2019 bill and saves state legislators from campaigning or raising money during the legislative session.

While that issue was not raised in the public hearing for the failed 2019 Super Tuesday bill, it was among the shortcomings of the legislation. The committee that heard the testimony on that bill also balked at the costs of a separate presidential primary and the impact it would have on election administrators. 

SB 785 addresses those issues, but it remains to be seen whether it will be any more successful than its predecessor was. Neighboring states all hold March or earlier contests, but the year after a presidential election is not a time when this type of legislation tends to move. But it would align Oregon with its neighbors if signed into law.

A link to this legislation will be added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Nevada Senate Bill Would Establish Consolidated Presidential Primary in June

In one corner, there is the recent proposal from majority Democrats in the Nevada Assembly to not only establish a presidential primary in the Silver state, but to schedule it in late January in an effort to challenge for first-in-the-nation status on the presidential primary calendar.

But in the other now is a counterproposal of sorts from nearly the full Republican caucus (including all of the leadership) in the Nevada state Senate. However, instead of being early calendar provocative, the Republican bill introduced last week -- SB 130 -- would similarly establish a presidential primary, but tether it to the primary for state and local offices. That primary currently falls on the second Tuesday in June

On timing, then, these two measures could not place the presidential primary further away from one another. Democrats, who are not assured of having an active nomination race in 2024 with an incumbent in the White House, are pushing the envelope in Nevada on the front end of the calendar. But the Republican bill would schedule the new presidential primary -- consolidated with the other primaries -- near the back end of the primary calendar when the GOP may have an active nomination race. [No Democratic contest can be later than the second Tuesday in June, and no Republican primary or caucus can fall on a date after the second Saturday in June.]  

It is a stark contrast, one that breaks with how in-parties and out-parties behave between cycles with respect to their delegate selection rules (on both the national and state levels). The motivation for Republicans is clear. The countermeasure would create a presidential primary, but avoid the costs of funding an all new separate presidential primary election as the Democrats' proposal does. Yet, as with the Democratic bill in the Assembly, this latest bill can also be amended. But would Silver state legislators want to contend with anything other than a June primary for their own renomination contests (if the full consolidated primary was moved to any earlier date upon amendment)? Alternatively, would such a proposal meet the Democrats' wishes of a presidential primary but allow Silver state Republicans to stick with their caucuses for allocating national convention delegates? 

Regardless, Nevada Republicans are in the minority in both chambers of the state legislature, so it is not exactly clear how much leverage they bring to the discussion of the establishment and scheduling of a presidential primary. 

A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Nevada Legislation Would Establish January Presidential Primary, but it's Flawed

Often there are few secrets in politics. And at least a couple of things are quite clear in the Democratic maneuvering in the midst of the evolving 2024 invisible primary. 
  1. Within the broader Democratic Party coalition there is some dissatisfaction with Iowa and New Hampshire continuing to lead off the presidential primary calendar. How large that faction is and the level of pressure it can bring on decision makers over the next year and a half remains to be seen. But it is a position that was recently given voice (again) by former DNC Chair Tom Perez.
  2. Nevada -- both Democratic lawmakers and the state Democratic Party -- have made no secret that they will challenge the calendar status quo
Those two realities may or may not ever converge, but the latter took some shape yesterday with the introduction of the legislation in the Nevada Assembly -- the Silver state's lower chamber -- to create a separate presidential primary election and schedule it for the Tuesday before the last Tuesday in January of a presidential election year. [In 2024, that would fall on January 23.]

But here is the thing: AB 126 is a retread for the most part. It resurrects -- at least with respect to the scheduling aspects of the bill -- Republican-sponsored bills from the 2013 and 2015 state legislative sessions that went nowhere. And they went nowhere because both were materially the same and were equally as flawed. 

One could ask, "Flawed how?" But before diving in to that question, it is appropriate to explore what the goals are with each bill. The previous Republican bills that sought to create a January presidential primary for the 2016 cycle did not aim to be first on the calendar per se, but to be first in the West. The aim of the Democratic sponsors -- Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-8th, Clark), Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-27th, Washoe) and Assemblywoman Brittney Miller (D-5th, Clark) -- in 2021 is different. This latest attempt to jump into January is an attempt at being first, not first-in-the-West but first-in-the-nation.

That goal and this bill are not well aligned. 

As written, this bill certainly protects Nevada as the first state to hold a delegate selection event in the West. It even empowers the secretary of state to reschedule the newly established presidential primary for an even earlier date than the Tuesday preceding the last Tuesday in January if another western state plans to hold an event earlier than that. [The secretary of state in consultation with the Legislative Council could schedule the presidential primary for as early as January 2.] But that list of states does not include New Hampshire (or Iowa for that matter). 

If left unamended, this bill (if it becomes law) would leave the state of Nevada impotent in dealing with New Hampshire, impotent in its challenge to first-in-the-nation status. Yes, folks in the Granite state will raise the state law that requires the New Hampshire primary to be at least seven days before any other similar contest. But that requirement is next to useless without empowering an actor who can pull the trigger on a scheduling decision on a moment's notice. New Hampshire has been adept at staying first because the secretary of state makes the scheduling decision and not a state legislature. Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire secretary of state, can do what he always does with states seeking to threaten New Hampshire's status: Wait them out and schedule the New Hampshire primary at time when state legislatures often are not in session and late enough to make it difficult for said legislature to respond quickly enough and still manage a presidential primary election effectively. 

Gardner would have no problem waiting until mid- to late November 2023 to leapfrog Nevada into mid-January, all the while knowing the Nevada legislature would have no real recourse.

The other problem with this bill is likely its specificity in view of the national parties and their rules on delegate selection. Nevada holds a privileged position on the primary calendar, codified in both national parties' sets of delegate selection rules. This bill as currently written would violate those rules. No, neither party has finalized their rules for the 2024 nomination process, but a January primary set this early on runs the risk of drawing the ire of the national parties as they are in the process of settling on those rules. Setting a date for late January is a provocation. On the Democratic side would cost the Nevada Democratic Party half of its delegation and candidates who campaign there any share of those reduced delegates they have won in the rogue primary. In the Republican process, the Nevada Republican Party would be subject to the super penalty if it opted into a January presidential primary. That would reduce the Nevada Republican delegation to just six delegates.

But again, those national rules are not set yet. However, by forcing the issue and scheduling a January primary now (as this bill would do), any goodwill Nevada may have in either party may dissipate; any desire to change course at the front of the calendar may not disappear, but it may no longer include Nevada. 

Then what recourse does an aspiring first-in-the-nation state like Nevada have? 

Well, bear in mind that AB 126 is just the introduced version of this legislation. It can be amended. And if the state is going to successfully challenge New Hampshire for first-in-the-nation status it will have to be. 

First, it would likely prove fruitful in dealing with New Hampshire and the national parties to leave the date of the newly created primary unsettled for now. This is something FHQ raised in a recent piece. In other words, create the presidential primary, but do not set a date. At least on the Democratic side, that gets Nevada even further in the good graces of a national party that more and more values primaries over caucuses. But by not setting a date for the election, it also does not agitate the decision-makers in the national party as they are determining the rules for the next nomination process. Such a move demonstrates that the state is serious about a defining principle within the party now -- increased participation -- while also making it known that it may be a preferable first state. 

Second, in dealing with New Hampshire specifically, not setting a date is just common sense. If the legislature sets a date now, then New Hampshire is just going to jump that later at a time that is maximally convenient for the preservation of its own first-in-the-nation status. Ideally, Nevada would want to replicate what New Hampshire does: cede the date-setting authority to one actor who can more quickly and nimbly decide on a date for the presidential primary. Furthermore, if by that point in 2023, Nevada has the backing of the DNC to be the first state -- no sure thing -- then the secretary of state or whichever actor has been empowered by the hypothetical new law can set the date for the first position without fear of sanction from the national party. Those sights may at that time be turned on New Hampshire

Granted, there are a lot of ifs built into that timeline but it is by far a better course of action in challenging New Hampshire and making a case to be first-in-the-nation than this bill that the Assembly rolled out in Carson City a day ago. 

If you come for the king, you best not miss. And AB 126 misses as currently written. It comes nowhere close to meeting the goals that either the bill or the Democratic Party in Nevada has laid out.

A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Nebraska Once Again Considers Returning to a Winner-Take-All Electoral Vote Allocation

A committee hearing scheduled for next week will once again have the Nebraska legislature considering a return to a winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes in future Electoral College meetings. 

LB 76 would revert Nebraska to the same winner-take-all system that it utilized in the Electoral College prior to the 1992 cycle and which all states other than Maine also use. 

But these attempts are nothing new in the Cornhusker state. Ever since that 1991 legislative session ushered in the era of electoral vote allocation by congressional district in Nebraska, some legislator or legislators have introduced legislation to rejoin the majority of states in how they handle the process. Each time, however, those efforts have failed. In 1993. In 1995. And in 1997. Chatter ramped up again in the aftermath of the state's first split of electoral votes in 2008, but nothing came of it. The same was true in 2015-16 before the 2016 presidential election and then again after it during the 2017 session. 

Now though, on the heels of yet another split of the five electoral votes at stake in Nebraska -- with John Biden replicating Barack Obama's 2008 win in the state's second congressional district on the way to the White House -- talk has again escalated around the idea of abandoning the more proportional system. And that talk with continue at the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee hearing next Wednesday. 

The allocation method Nebraska utilizes is unique compared to most other states, but given its partisan bent, any split that occurs breaks with the overwhelming partisan sentiment in the state. And those are the ends of the spectrum: maintaining a unique system or preserving electoral votes for the Republican nominee. The former has won out to this point since 1992.

Nebraska may have had difficulty in breaking with that tradition, but other states have had their own issues in trying to move to a more proportional, Nebraska-style allocation method. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all considered that in the time after the 2012 election. All states were Republican-controlled, but all had gone for Obama in 2012. Efforts failed in all three and 2016 quickly proved the folly such a move would have presented. Trump narrowly won all three states and would have had to have split the electoral votes had those post-2012 plans been instituted. Unintended consequences are everywhere. 

As a footnote, in recent years (during the 2010s) there have been more, although not more successful, bids to transition Nebraska into the national popular vote pact. There have been at least five (unsuccessful) bills on that front in that time.

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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Montana Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to March

With rare exception, Montana has conducted a consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June throughout the post-reform era. 

The only times when that was not the case were in 1984, when state Democrats opted to hold March caucuses instead, and in 2008 when Treasure state Republicans had a February state convention. Other than those two instances, Montana delegate allocation in both parties has tended to stem from the June presidential primary.1

And it is additionally true that the Montana legislature has done little to alter the scheduling. It has not been common for legislators to introduce legislation shifting the primary date -- presidential or otherwise -- because 1) that entails a budgetary decision on creating a separate and earlier presidential primary or 2) moving the consolidated primary would mean moving the legislators own primaries (and increase the length of their campaigns if the date is earlier than June). [Unlike many other states, Montana's legislature only meets in odd numbered years, so a change in the primary date would not mean that legislator would be campaigning for the hypothetically earlier primary during the legislative session; something that has been a roadblock in other states.]

While other states surrounding the Treasure state have shifted their presidential primaries over the years, Montana just has not seen much activity to affect the same change there. Within the last decade there have been just two bills that would have made any change to the scheduling of the Montana presidential primary: 
1) a 2015 effort to move the primary to August (which would have made the presidential primary non-compliant), and...
2) 2013 legislation to consolidated the presidential (and other) primaries with school elections in May.

In the face of a bevy of post-reform efforts across the nation to frontload presidential primaries, then, Montana has resisted the urge to follow suit.

But as the process eases into the 2024 cycle, that may be changing. New legislation -- HB 248 -- introduced by Rep. Kelly Kortum (D-65th, Bozeman) would move the consolidated primary in the Treasure state up three months from June to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. That likely Super Tuesday date would align the Montana presidential primary with primaries from a host of states across the country with Utah as its likely closest neighbor. That would not be the earliest presidential nominating contest in Montana (That's the 2008 Republican convention.), but it would be the earliest primary election the Treasure has conducted. 

In the initial committee hearing for HB 248 on Tuesday, February 2, the State Administration heard arguments for and against the shift. Bill sponsor, Kelly Kortum made the case for the added economic benefit of an earlier primary, but failed when pressed to come up with anything more than abstract notions of candidate visits and spending in the state. Montana would be among the least delegate-rich states on Super Tuesday and would be hard-pressed to draw anything more than campaign spending on advertisements. Keaton Sunchild, director of Montana Native Vote, backed the bill citing the increased emphasis on rural, native and western voices in the process. But he was the only proponent of the legislation. 

Everything else during the hearing was a push back against the change from election administrators at all levels across the state. Dana Corson, the director of elections and voting services in the Montana secretary of state's office, balked at the date change and when it would be implemented. To do so for the 2022 cycle would put stress on a new voting system being put in place, but even had issues with the filing deadlines changes if implementation was pushed back to 2024. The latter was a refrain that was repeated by both Regina Plettenberg (county clerks of Montana) and Shantil Siaperas (Montana Association of Counties). Neither thought that moving filing deadlines and elections training into the holiday season to accommodate a March primary would be workable. But this is a common point of dissension among clerks and counties when similar primary bills are raised in other areas across the country. 

The committee will later consider a recommendation to pass (or not) to the House floor. Early indications are that there was neither a solid and persuasive argument for the change, nor enthusiasm on the committee for the change. But that is not atypical this early in a presidential election cycle. That urgency may be there in two years time. 

A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

1 For a number of post-reform cycles, the Republican presidential primary in Montana was a beauty contest and treated as merely advisory to the delegate selection/allocation that would take place at a subsequent state convention.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

New York Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to June, but...

For the last several cycles, the scheduling of the New York presidential primary has fallen into a regular rhythm. Following the end of any presidential election year, the date of the primary -- wherever it has been scheduled in the previous cycle -- reverts to an early February date that is non-compliant with national party rules. 

That routine is no different as the 2020 cycle transitions to 2024

What initially was set before the Covid-19 outbreak as a late April primary date has once again been automatically pushed back to the first Tuesday in February, the day after the (would-be) Iowa caucuses (if the scheduling of the past few cycles carries over to 2024). But that has been the placeholder for the presidential primary -- the spring primary -- in the Empire state since the 2008 cycle. One could argue, and FHQ has, that this forces state legislators to revisit the date of the primary every cycle and to consider alternatives that might be advantageous to the state. The clearer argument just jumps to the latter explanation. Legislators in New York do not need to be forced, but rather they collectively and voluntarily reexamine the date of the presidential primary in the light of the national party rules that have been released during the midterm election year. 

But now, newly introduced legislation would disrupt this regular rhythm of the last decade and consolidate the presidential primary with the primaries for state offices. S 1819 would eliminate the spring primary language and move the date of the presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in June.

Astute readers and calendar watchers will no doubt spot the problem with the legislation introduced and sponsored by two Democratic legislators, Sen. James Skoufis (D-39th) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-27th). Yes, the plan would move the New York presidential primary out of the early calendar problem area  near or before the four carve-out states. But it would create the same problem on the back end of the calendar. The late June primary was fine in 2020, however, only because of latitude provided to the states/state parties due to the pandemic. Assuming there is no global outbreak in 2024 and that the national party rules on timing carry over to the coming presidential primary season, then a fourth Tuesday in June primary in the Empire state would also be non-compliant. 

Now, obviously this has not stopped New York legislators in the past. Again, see the description of that "regular rhythm" above. They could as they have over the last several cycles schedule the primary for an alternative (and compliant) time, but if this legislation passes and is signed into law, there would also be the matter of the state primaries tethered to the presidential primary. Would legislators move the entire consolidated primary to an earlier date or would they merely split them again, shifting the presidential primary alone to different point on the calendar? 

That remains to be seen should this legislation actually make it through the legislative branch and end up signed into law. But the one thing that is for certain is that it would be tempting from a cost savings perspective to keep the two sets of contests together. And that is likely the main thrust of this legislation.

A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.