While all the attention has been focused on the lack of a signed budget for FY24 in the Commonwealth, there could be another significant impact on Pennsylvania when it comes to selecting presidential candidates next year.
Time is running out for the General Assembly to make a change in the state’s presidential primary date.
The Commonwealth is rarely involved in the final selection of either the Democratic or Republican candidate due to its date falling on the third Tuesday in April.
As it stands today, 34 states will have the opportunity to make their selections before Pennsylvanians head to their polling places on April 23, 2024.
15 – Iowa (Republicans)
3 – South Carolina (Democrats)
6 – Nevada, New York
24 – South Carolina (Republicans)
27 – Michigan
5 – Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia
12 – Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Washington
19 – Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio
23 – Delaware, Louisiana
30 – Connecticut
2 – Wisconsin
23 – Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
7 – Indiana
14 – Maryland, Nebraska, West Virginia
4 – Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota
Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster) has introduced House Bill 51 that will change the date of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary to the third Tuesday of March – or March 19, 2024 – if adopted.
“The lateness of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary diminishes its significance for voters of both the Democratic and Republican parties,” said Greiner in his cosponsorship memoranda. “Pennsylvania’s presidential primary should have a significant impact on the process of selecting presidential candidates, to reflect our standing as “The Keystone State.”
HB51 was referred to the House State Government committee on March 7, but has languished in the committee chaired by Scott Conklin (D-Centre).
With the state House and Senate not expected to return to session before late September, the question arises if the bill can get through both chambers to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk in time for the 2024 primary.
The state requires at least a 90-day period before an election to prepare an “election notice that contains a list of all ballot measures and federal, state and local offices its county election boards expects to be on the ballot.
Translated, an April 23, 2024 presidential primary would mean that an election notice would be posted on January 24, 2024. This would also be the first legal day that candidates could circulate and file nomination petitions.
Using a 2020 Election Calendar provided by the Department of State, 15 days prior to that date is the last day a presidential candidate can notify the Secretary of the Commonwealth that s/he authorizes delegates and alternate delegates to pledge their support for him or her. That date would be January 9, 2024.
Should the General Assembly wish the move the presidential primary date off April 23, 2024 – which is also the first day of Passover – requires these dates to shift as well.
A move to March 19 would shift the first day for nomination petitions to fall on December 20, 2023, while the last date to notify the state re: delegates becomes December 5. Given the fact that candidates and parties are given 21 days to complete petitions, this is not optimal due to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
PoliticsPA reached out to the Department of State who was unable to provide an answer by the end of the day.
Still think there’s plenty of time to get this done?
With the resignation of Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny) from her 21st House District seat earlier in the week, the House now sits at a 101-101 tie with the majority hanging in the balance in a September 19 special election.
While Democrats are expected to hold onto the seat, it will still take 2-3 weeks for Allegheny County to certify the winner, enabling them to sworn in as member #203.
Let’s assume for our discussion that it takes 21 days to certify the winner. That takes us to October 10 before the House probably takes up its business once again. And the first order of business will be to solve the budget impasse, pushing HB51 and other bills in the pipeline to the outskirts of Harrisburg.
How many session days are typically held during October and November? Last year, the PA House was in session just nine days during that timeframe, including three non-voting days. In 2021, the chamber held 12 sessions. And remember, bills need to be considered on three different session days before they can be approved.
Can HB51 get out of committee for a full vote of the House quickly? Would the Senate fast-track the bill to get it to the governor’s desk? Would there be enough time for the Department of State to implement the change, according to state statutes?
Stay tuned, but the clock is ticking.