Pa. Could See an Earlier Presidential Primary Election
HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Legislation making its way through the State Capitol could give Pennsylvania voters more influence at the ballot box in 2024.
The 2024 Presidential Primary is currently scheduled for April 23, which falls on the Jewish holiday of Passover. Some lawmakers are proposing to move the spring primary to March 19 because of the conflict with Passover and because they believe the primary outcome is too often decided before Pennsylvania voters have a chance to determine their party’s candidate.
Political analyst Dr. Jeffrey Bloodworth of Gannon University agrees April 23 is too late.
“I mean it for such an important state, it doesn't make sense,” said Bloodworth. “I can't imagine a world in which they don't move this up. It's a matter of when.”
Senate Bill 224 proposes moving the primary to the third Tuesday of the month, March 19, which is the same day as states like Ohio, Arizona and Florida. It’s after Super Tuesday on March 5, but still early enough where voters in the Commonwealth can have an impact, according to Bloodworth.
“It moves it up in a way that makes Pennsylvania important,” said Bloodworth, noting that the date is a good remedy that likely wouldn’t push other key states to bump up their primary any earlier. “Which would then erase any gains that Pennsylvania made,” he added.
But the clock is ticking for lawmakers to make a decision, as 2024 approaches.
“We need to know of this change as soon as possible,” said Tonia Fernandez, the Erie County Director of Elections.
Fernandez says presidential races always bring out more voters. This year, she’s expecting a large influx in voter registration.
“When I say influx, I mean by tens of thousands. We have to have the time to process those applications or at least we need to know so we prepare to bring more staff in or work longer hours. Whatever it is, we need to make plans now,” said Fernandez.
A shortage of paper and volunteers aren’t making matters any easier for county election officials. Fernandez says many of Erie County’s poll workers seek warmer weather in the winter months. An earlier primary could mean less poll workers.
“A lot of our poll workers are snowbirds. They might be in Florida for that for that primary in April. Moving it up to March, it presents an even bigger issue,” said Fernandez. “We have to let them know early so maybe they can make those arrangements to come back- and that's even if they want to,” she added.
Lawmakers are still tossing around dates to hold the election. Some argue March 19 is too early and prefer the beginning of April. SB 224, which calls for the primary to be held on March 19, advanced through the Senate State Government Committee on Aug. 30. It’s ready for consideration by the full Senate, which could happen before the end of the month.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstrong/Indiana/Jefferson/Westmoreland) shared the following statement with Erie News Now:
“We share a common interest in moving the primary date up earlier in the year. While discussions are ongoing, the Senate is in a position when we return to session next week to quickly address the issue and send legislation to the House.”