Older Info Re. PA Primary Legislation

[The below was provided to me by Gina Strine from Representative Matt Baker’s office.  He is the GOP chair of the state government committee.] 

May 7, 2007

Mr. Karl U. Bucus

Phoenixville PA 19460


Dear Mr. Bucus:

Recently, you wrote to share with me your thoughts on changing the primary election date in the Commonwealth so that Pennsylvanians have a real choice of candidate.

As you know, current law places Pennsylvania’s General primary on the third Tuesday in May in all even numbered years, except in the year of the nomination of the President of the United States.  During presidential primary years, the date is the second Tuesday of April.  Over the years, the issue of primary election rescheduling has been subject to heated debate and that debate continues.

For a number of years, members of the General Assembly have introduced proposals to move the Presidential primary date forward, so as to allow the Commonwealth to play an important role in the presidential nomination process.  There has been a lot of attention to that fact that, as presidential primaries become more “front-loaded,” Pennsylvania is losing clout in the nomination process.  Thankfully, the Commonwealth’s influence in the November election remains strong.

During the 1999-2000 legislative session of the General Assembly, the Task Force and Advisory Committee on Primary Election Dates, which was made up of legislators and various interest groups, reported that the present presidential primary election system fails to afford Pennsylvania’s voters a fair amount of influence on the end result for the election.  The Committee suggested that if the national parties do not come to a resolution to reform this process, the General Assembly should consider legislation to change the date.  Unfortunately, negotiations between the national parties did not produce a viable national plan for altering or rotating presidential primary dates among the states.

Over the past several years there have been numerous changes to the national presidential calendar.  Between 1996 and 2000, many states moved their presidential primary election dates forward in order to enhance their clout in the primary process and attract more attention from the candidates.  Several states are considering changing the date of their presidential primary, while others have already passed legislation to do so.  For this reason, and many other election reform issues, Governor Rendell signed Executive Order 2004-11 on December 13, 2004 and created the Pennsylvania Election Reform Task Force.  The purpose of the Task Force was to thoroughly examine election reform issues in the Commonwealth.

The Primary Election date was one of several election reform issues to be studied.  According to Executive Order 2004-11, “Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state in the nation but the intentions of voters residing in Pennsylvania are not weighted appropriately in the presidential primary elections in 26 other states.”  Therefore, the Task Force was charged with the duty of examining options and providing recommendations for changing the date of the primary election, including legislative changes and timelines necessary to achieve the recommended changes.

The Task Force recommended that both the presidential and state primary elections be moved to an earlier date, specifically the first Tuesday in March.  While the General Assembly has seen presidential primary legislation in previous sessions, none of these proposals were favorably acted upon.  However, bills have been introduced this legislative session to again address this issue.

House Bill 289, introduced by Representative Readshaw, would keep the General Primary on the third Tuesday of May in all even-numbered years, except in the year of the presidential election, when the general primary would be held on the second Tuesday of February.  This bill is currently in the House State Government Committee for review.

House Bill 63, introduced by Representative Buxton, would make the following previsions to the Pennsylvania Election Code: 1) The general primary for 2008 will be held on March 4, 2008.  2) Nomination petitions for the 2008 General Primary cannot be circulated prior to November 13, 2007 as well as no signatures will be counted if not dated by November 13, 2007.  3)

Nomination petitions must be filed no later than December 11, 2007.  and 4) All objections to a nomination petition must be filed no later than December 21, 2007 and the court must rule on the objections no later than January 11, 2008.  This is bill is also currently in the House State Government Committee for review.

I should also note that Senate Bill 516, introduced by Senator Lavalle, would schedule the 2008 presidential primary on March 4 and the 2012 presidential primary on March 6.  This bill is in the Senate State Government Committee for review.

The presidential primary is the most controversial issue within the Commonwealth.  While I am sure this issue will remain a source of spirited debate in the General Assembly, I am hopeful that we are able to make the best decision for the voters in the Commonwealth in time for the 2008 presidential primary election.  You may be interested to know that on May 24, 2007 the House State Government Committee will be holding a public hearing from 11-3 on the changing of the Pennsylvania Primary date.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  I hope that you will find this information helpful.  Please be assured that I will keep the interests of Pennsylvanians in mind should any of the above proposed legislation come before the full House for a vote.  Should you have any further questions regarding this or any other state related matter, please feel free to contact me.


Matthew E. Baker

Republican Chairman

State Government Committee

One response to “Older Info Re. PA Primary Legislation

  1. Pingback: Moving the Primary; Grassroots Update II « PA For Hizzoner, Rudy Giuliani

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