Bill moving up Michigan’s presidential primary heads to Whitmer’s desk, but hurdles remain ⋆
A bill that would put Michigan fifth in line for the Democratic presidential primary has cleared both legislative chambers and now heads to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has voiced support for the legislation.
Senate Bill 13 was first adopted in the Senate last week, followed by passage in the House on Tuesday. Upon becoming law, the measure would move up Michigan’s presidential primary election date to the fourth Tuesday in February rather than the second Tuesday in March.
Democrats like Whitmer and House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) say the legislation is necessary so Michigan can play a bigger role in picking the Democratic presidential nominee. In the past, the process has been dominated by smaller states that are not as diverse like Iowa and New Hampshire.
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But in order for the bill to go into effect in time for the upcoming primary — for Feb. 27, 2024 — two-thirds of both chambers are required to vote for immediate effect. The bill has I.E. in the House, but no GOP senators voted for it last week, as they argued the move does not benefit Republican voters.
There are possible mechanisms that could be deployed to implement the change in time for the 2024 election, Democrats said.
One option would be for the Legislature to conclude session for the year earlier than usual, (known as sine die) in late November instead of late December. This would start the 90 day-window earlier before the bill’s effective date, skirting around the need for an immediate effect vote.
Another option is the Senate changing its rules for how immediate effect is implemented.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) could also change its own rules for delegates, which has been a major sticking point for Republican lawmakers who have expressed concern that an earlier statewide primary could result in Michigan being penalized.
In a speech, Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton) criticized the lack of “transparency” in the process.
“As legislators, we are elected by the people in our communities to represent their views and serve as their voice in Lansing,” she said.
Currently, RNC rules cannot be changed within two years of the next convention, unlike the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Republicans say that this means they would not be able to select their delegates before the new date in 2024, resulting in the loss of most of Michigan’s national GOP delegates.
Republicans could select delegates as soon as Feb. 27, 2024, via party caucus, without a state primary, as they have done in several past elections, but such alternative routes would be more costly than the state-funded primary path.
“We sent a signal to the DNC that we’re ready, and we sent a signal to the RNC to get on board,” state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) told the Advance Tuesday evening.
Sen. Jeremy Moss escorts Gov. Gretchen Whitmer into the Michigan House of Representatives to deliver her fifth State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2023. (Andrew Roth/)
“There’s going to be a national conversation about Michigan positioning itself for an early primary, buoyed by Democratic and Republican voters who are ready to welcome this focus on our state. Does the RNC really want to be the singular holdup here because of the delegate count?”
In a joint statement from Moss and Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), the pair said that SB 13 “starts this process” of moving up Michigan’s primary date, alluding to more action.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our national partners to fully enact an early primary by 2024,” Brinks and Moss said.
The full DNC will take a vote this month on whether or not to accept the new date changes in Michigan and several other states after a DNC panel approved them late last year.
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authored by Laina G. Stebbins
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