2020 California presidential primaries could be held in March
Hoping to give California more of a voice in presidential elections, state legislators are pushing for a bill that would move up the 2020 state presidential primary to March.
And if other states counter by advancing their primaries, California would hold its primary election even sooner.
A bill, known as SB 568, aims to make California the third state in the country, after Iowa and New Hampshire, to vote on presidential candidates. The 2020 presidential primary would be held the third Tuesday in March.
The legislation passed the state Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday, April 18. It received bipartisan support, passing 5-0.
And one of its biggest supporters is California’s top elections officer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
“If we move the primary early, it makes the candidates from all parties have to campaign in California, earn California voter support and pay better attention to California voter issues,” Padilla said.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would allow the governor to move the primary date even earlier if other states followed suit. And the primary for state and local elections would be held on the same date — even in nonpresidential election years.
In almost every presidential election, the race is pretty much determined by the time California voters go to the polls. Last year, for example, all of Donald Trump’s Republican opponents had already withdrawn from the race, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had little chance of catching Democrat Hillary Clinton when Californians cast primary ballots.
Even The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Democratic primary before Californians had the chance to vote.
Raphel Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, said it’s not completely clear how an earlier primary would affect the presidential race. It depends on who’s running and what the state of the race is, he said.
Had the 2016 state primaries been earlier, it might have “changed Trump’s chances to have a big state there,” Sonenshein said.
Sonenshein, though, is skeptical about this proposed change because it could entice other states to do the same.
“I think the problem is that this is a reform that could be a very good idea if everybody else cooperates in the goal of making California important,” he said. “The only problem is all 49 other states would also like to be important.”
It’s happened before.
In 2008, California held its presidential primary Feb. 5. Padilla said it resulted in the highest voter turnout of any presidential primary election since 1980. However, California was one of 22 states whose primaries dogpiled that day — that year’s Super Tuesday — weakening its influence.