Michigan Senate Approves Earlier Primary—to GOP’s Dismay

January 27, 2023

The Democratic-led state senate in Michigan on Thursday voted to approve moving up the date of its 2024 Presidential primary—a move that could hurt Republicans.

In a vote along party lines, the Michigan Senate voted 20-18 to shift the primary from mid-March to February 27th, 2024. The legislation also states that future presidential primaries will always take place on the fourth Tuesday in February.

Michigan’s move was prompted by a shift in the Democratic National Committee’s primary calendar. The DNC was moved to shake up the primaries after Iowa, whose caucuses have historically been the first contest in the Presidential primary season for both parties, suffered a fiasco in 2020 involving an untested app used to tabulate results led to significant delays and raised security concerns.

The DNC rules committee voted last month to approve a plan championed by President Biden. It would replace Iowa’s caucus of its lead-off position with South Carolina, which would open primary voting on February 3. New Hampshire and Nevada would hold primaries together three days later, with Georgia’s primary coming February 13 and Michigan’s two weeks later. Most of the rest of the country would subsequently vote on Super Tuesday in early March.

But according to Michigan state Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R), if the state moves up its primary in 2024, the national GOP would likely penalize Michigan Republicans.

“If the Michigan primary takes place before March 1 of next year, Republicans would lose about 85% of the Republican delegates to the national convention. We had 72 delegates in 2020, and we’d go down to 13 delegates next year,” he told the Detroit Free Press.

The bill now heads to the state House for a vote which could happen as soon as Tuesday, January 31.

Democrats control both chambers in that state, but they need Republican support to enact any change before the end of February 2024. That’s because under Michigan Senate rules, it takes two-thirds of the members to make sure a bill goes into effect as soon as it is signed into law. Without that level of support, the law does not take effect until 90 days after the end of session. Right now, Michigan Democrats do not have enough votes to get to that threshold, meaning the bill would likely not take effect until after the proposed 2024 primary date.

Michigan is only one of the states giving the DNC trouble over its revamped calendar. New Hampshire is digging in against it, saying its state law mandates that it hold the nation’s first Presidential primary, and state Republicans oppose changing that law. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, meanwhile, has indicated he’d only be willing to move his state’s primary if the Republican National Committee pushes to change the date, which hasn’t happened. 

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