When North Carolina’s citizens may cast their votes in future primary and presidential elections on a date earlier on the calendar than in previous years. That is, if Senate Bill 655, “Change Date When Primary Elections Held” can make it through the Senate, again.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), stalled in the Senate on Thursday, June 8, after having been placed on the Senate calendar for consideration. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon (R-New Hanover) pulled the bill from the calendar during the Senate session, and sent it back to Rules for further consideration.
The bill was passed by the Senate unanimously on April 26 and was sent to the House. The House passed it on June 6, albeit with an amendment, which consequently will make it necessary for the Senate to pass the amended version before it can be sent to the governor.
In previous recent presidential election years, there has been debate about North Carolina moving its presidential and other primary elections to March from May. The idea has been that an earlier date will make the state more relevant in the presidential nomination race.
At one point in 2015, the national Republican Party threatened to take away some of the state’s convention delegates if the presidential primary were moved to February, as was being discussed then. House Bill 373, “Elections” eventually was passed and signed into law by then-Gov. Pat McCrory, setting the date of the 2016 presidential primary at March 15, 2016.
Regarding his bill, Brock said, “The bill is designed as more of a technical change than anything else. It sets a date regardless of what South Carolina does with their dates going forward.”
The bill addresses three election dates. First, it sets the general primary date as Tuesday after the first Monday in March before each general election held in November in even-numbered years.
Second, it provides for filing of notice of candidacy in December prior to the primary election. Currently with the primaries being held in May, candidates file to run in February. That obviously necessitates moving the filing to December.
Third, it sets the date of the presidential preference primary to the Tuesday after the first Monday in March, beginning with the 2020 presidential election. Brock said this should make the process less complex compared with having the political parties jockeying for position based on what South Carolina or other states do regarding the presidential primary.
The original version of the bill as Brock filed would be effective when it becomes law and apply to elections held on or after that date. The amendment that the House passed changed the effective date of the bill to January 1, 2019, and would apply to even-year elections held on or after that date, essentially making it effective for elections held in 2020.
Brock said that he did not have a problem with the House amendment, and that he is hopeful that his bill will pass.
Some have speculated that the uncertainty concerning whether there will be a court-ordered election this year has put the bill on hold. However, with the bill applying to elections held in 2020, that may not be an issue.