The Democratic majority in the Michigan Senate approved a measure on Thursday that will move the state’s presidential primaries to early in the year.
The 20-18 party line vote to move the primaries from mid-March to late February every four years is favored by Democrats, but could substantially hurt Republicans ahead of what should be a heated election to decide the party’s candidate in 2024.
“This bill elevates the voice and vote of Michigan Democrats and Michigan Republicans and gives every Michigander a timely and worthy chance to choose the next president of the United States,” said State Senator Jeremy Moss, D -Southfield, the main sponsor of the bill.
Right now, the state’s presidential primaries are set for the second Tuesday in March every four years. The bill would move it to the fourth Tuesday in February. This would make Michigan one of the first states to hold a primary. Supporters point to the national hoopla associated with traditional first-vote states Iowa and New Hampshire, arguing that the focus brings more attention to local issues and concerns.
But Republicans have noted that their national rules are different from those of the Democratic Party. If Michigan moves the primary to early 2024, the national GOP would likely penalize Michigan Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt R-Porter Township explained.
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“If the Michigan primary were held before March 1 next year, Republicans would lose about 85 percent of Republican delegates to the national convention. We had 72 delegates in 2020 and next year we’d be down to 13,” he said. he said she.
“This legislation … will, I believe, disenfranchise Michigan voters if left as is.”
The argument hasn’t resonated with the Democratic majority, but the GOP may eventually get what it wants.
Under Michigan Senate rules, it takes two-thirds of members to make sure a bill goes into effect as soon as it’s signed. Without that level of support, the law doesn’t go into effect until 90 days after the end of the session. Right now, Democrats don’t have enough votes to reach that threshold, meaning the bill likely won’t go into effect until after the mandated 2024 primary date.
The legislation was prompted by the Democratic Party’s decision to overhaul its calendar for which states hold presidential primary contests first. Late last year, under the direction of President Joe Biden, the party’s rules and regulation committee adopted a new primary calendar for 2024 that would put South Carolina in first place, followed by Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and then Michigan, reversing the current calendar which begins with the Iowa caucuses and then the New Hampshire primary each presidential year.
However, all states, including Michigan, must pass laws to ensure they can legally hold primaries on dates preferred by the party, which has yet to finalize the new calendar. The Republican Party, meanwhile, has said it will keep the current calendar, raising questions about how it will play out between parties next year.
While moving the presidential primary could help the state in the future, it’s unclear how it would benefit Democrats in 2024. Biden hasn’t officially declared that he’s running for re-election, but many expect him to. In that case, an incumbent president is unlikely to face substantial opposition from his own party.
But the GOP presidential primaries are expected to be a loud affair. Former President Donald Trump has already indicated he’s in the running, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and a slew of others should weigh their offers.
If Michigan is indeed penalized by the RNC for moving its primary, that would mean the state’s votes during the contest would have far less impact at the GOP nominating convention.
The bill still needs to pass the House and be signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to become law.
Free Press staff writer and Washington correspondent Todd Spangler contributed to this report.
Contact Dave Boucher: [email protected]
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Michigan Senate passes presidential primaries that angered the GOP