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Schmidt Urges Senate To Act Soon On Possible Presidential Primary Date Change

Al Schmidt

In a letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt said that time was of the essence if hopes of moving the date of Pennsylvania’s 2024 presidential primary were to be realized.

“As you know, Governor (Josh) Shapiro has also publicly stated his support for moving the 2024 General Primary – which currently falls on the first full day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday, to ensure that all eligible voters have every opportunity to exercise their right to vote and to serve their community as election officers and poll workers on that day,” wrote Schmidt. “I know the Governor hopes to work with the General Assembly to make this date change a reality.

“While I certainly support making this change, as a longtime election administrator, I strongly urge that any legislation moving the date of the primary be passed by the General Assembly as soon as possible. Given that you have not scheduled the Senate to return to session until September 18, meaning any legislative action on this topic is at minimum two months away, I am deeply concerned we will not give county election officials the time they need to adjust thousands of polling locations to accommodate a new, earlier Primary date.

“Typically, county election boards reserve polling locations and poll workers a year or more in advance of an election to avoid conflicts with other events and to have ample time to inform voters of where they will cast their votes. There are more than 9,000 polling locations that need to be secured across the Commonwealth for the Primary election. To provide some context on what that undertaking is like for counties, election administrators in Westmoreland County need to secure 307 polling places and Montgomery County needs to secure 301. County election officials will have to confirm the availability of each of those polling places and their poll workers and make alternative arrangements if necessary. Additionally, school districts that close their schools to students on election days will have to adjust their academic calendar.”

Sens. David Argall (R-Carbon/Luzerne/Schuylkill) and Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) have introduced Senate Bill 224 that calls for the state’s presidential primary to move from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in March. Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster) has introduced a similar bill in the House that would do the same.

“This will allow our voters to have a significant say in the outcome of these essential elections, while not running afoul of any rules set forth by the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee,” said Argall and Street in their co-sponsorship memoranda.

“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.”

While applauding Ward’s interest in moving the date, Schmidt also provided background from his experience as a Philadelphia City Commissioner.

“With each passing day, it grows more challenging for county election officials to identify and reserve alternative polling locations where conflicts are identified for the current locations,” he wrote. “The legislation that has been introduced in the State Senate would move the Primary date five weeks earlier in the year, increasing the pressure on county election administrators even further. Giving counties adequate time to coordinate the people, facilities, and supplies that are necessary to administer an election is integral to a well-run 2024 Primary.”


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