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Should PA Change Its Presidential Primary Date?

Let the jockeying begin.

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted Wednesday to establish an application process for how states will be considered as candidates to kick-off the presidential primary season.

Should Pennsylvania join in the fray?

The DNC will require states looking to move earlier in the calendar to indicate their intent by May 6 and to file a formal application no later than June 3. After that, states will need to make a presentation in late June.

It is expected that the committee will make its recommendation to the DNC in early July with a full membership vote later this summer.

Iowa and New Hampshire have been the first states to caucus and vote since the earliest days of the presidential nominating process. But Iowa’s troubled 2020 Democratic caucuses led to calls that the Hawkeye State not only failed to implement its caucus properly, but no longer represented the party’s diversity.

The DNC looks to take into account a series of factors including racial, ethnic and regional diversity; access to the ballot and using ballots rather than caucuses; and the states’ general election competitiveness.

A handful of states have already indicated they plan to apply. New Jersey Democrats sent a letter to DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison in mid-March arguing that they should go first, emphasizing the state’s racial and geographic diversity. Michigan, too, has indicated it’s interested. And Nevada, which currently goes third in nominating order, has also lobbied to jump to the front of the line.

To date, Pennsylvania has not.

In 2020, the Keystone State sat 32nd in the presidential primary process with its election supposed to be held on the fourth Tuesday in April. Pennsylvania holds its primary on the same date as New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware.

Last December, the state Senate unanimously approved a bill to move up Pennsylvania’s primary elections in presidential election years by five weeks to the third Tuesday in March. This would place Pennsylvania on a similar date as Arizona, Florida and Illinois. The bill was sent to the House for consideration but has not been acted upon.

“In most presidential elections, the outcome is largely decided before our voters have a chance to cast their vote,” said state Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia), the bill’s sponsor, in a statement.

But to move it even earlier would require legislative action.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party does not have the power to move the presidential primary – it requires legislative approval,” said spokesperson Jeffrey Sheridan in a statement. “If the governor and legislative leaders decide to pursue this, the Party is open to discussions, but there are no plans at this time.”

The dates for the general primary and the presidential primary are determined by the Pennsylvania Election Code §603. 

There shall be a General primary preceding each general election which shall be held on the third Tuesday of May in all even-numbered years, except in the year of the nomination of a President of the United States, in which year the General primary shall be held on the fourth Tuesday of April.”

4 Responses

  1. Like formerly religious and patriotic holidays, the primary elections have become commercial opportunities for early States.

  2. They have this stupid debate every cycle.

    In recent elections, the candidates were still in play by the PA primary, so PA voters had a say in close elections.

  3. Iowa and New Hampshire should no longer be first. South Carolina, Nevada and Minnesota would be good options to start the race with PA moved up to March.

  4. I understand why there is interest in moving the primary date up. Is it necessary? Probably not. Centrists want the primary date moved up as PA is a centrist state.

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