Primary movement

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Last week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 82-14, HB 2595 (link opens a Microsoft Word-compatible Rich Text Format file), which would move Oklahoma's 2008 presidential preference primary from the first Tuesday in February to the last Tuesday in January. The bill was authored by State Rep. Trebor Worthen and State Sen. Todd Lamb, both Oklahoma City Republicans. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee.

Oklahoma is already in a strategic position with its current primary date, which it shares with California, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, and Utah. (West Virginia has a state convention for delegate selection that day, and North Dakota has caucuses.) Although California will attract a lot of attention, it doesn't have the majority of delegates up for grabs that day. In fact, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have a combined total of 125 delegates. Add in Alabama's 45, and you have what amounts to a south central regional primary offering 170 delegates. (The numbers exclude the three uncommitted superdelegate seats allocated to each state's RNC representatives.)

Despite a much greater population, California has the same number of delegates, a consequence of the party's overall lack of success in statewide races there. California gets one bonus delegate (for winning the Governor's Mansion); Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma have a total of 55 bonus delegates.

(Arizona and Utah are inconsequential -- likely locks for McCain and Romney, respectively.)

While California was a winner-take-all state in years past, in 2008, there will be 54 separate elections. Three delegates will be allocated in each congressional district to the candidate with a plurality. The winner of the statewide tally will get an additional 11 seats. There's an incentive for an underfunded candidate to focus on winning in just one of California's media markets, while spending more time and money in the less expensive, more compact south central states.

So there are already plenty of strategic reasons for presidential hopefuls to spend plenty of time in Oklahoma. If HB 2095 passes the State Senate, Oklahoma would become even more important, leaping ahead of South Carolina by four days to become the second primary on the calendar, just a week after New Hampshire.

Of course, any other state might move its date, too, if there is still time for its legislature to act. In some states, legislatures have authorized the governor or the state's chief election official to move the date in response to the actions of other states, whether or not the legislature is in session.

LINKS: The Green Papers has a wealth of information about the 2008 primary process, including a chronological calendar of primaries, caucuses, and conventions, which in turn has links to details on each state's rules, delegate allocations for the Republicans and Democrats, showing the allocation formula used by each party. There is also a table showing who is eligible to participate in delegate selection and what allocation method is used for each state for both Republicans and Democrats. Each state page includes notes on legislation affecting the date of the primary.

The fact that the Green Papers got Oklahoma's legislative information wrong makes me wonder about the reliability of their other information, however. They have this:

Oklahoma HB 1790 was amended on 7 February 2007 to change the Presidentail Primary date from the first Tuesday in February (5 February 2008) to the first Saturday in February (2 February 2008).

HB 1790 is actually Rep. John Trebilcock's very sensible bill to reduce the number of permitted special election dates from 21 to 14 in every two-year cycle. Unfortunately HB 1790 didn't make it out of committee. I can't find any legislation that would move the primary to a Saturday.

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Jan Thomas said:

I just hope that we have Fred Thompson on the ballot no matter when it is held.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 24, 2007 10:47 PM.

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