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The Lake News Online
  • Missouri primaries could be moved to March

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  • Bills in the Missouri Legislature could change the dates of two primary elections and the logistics of running those primaries.  
    The Missouri House of Representatives passed legislation, HB 1902, on March 13 that would set the state's 2016 presidential primary for March 15. That bill, which passed on a 97-48 vote, has been sent to the Senate.
    Missouri previously held its party primary in February but faced losing some delegates to the 2016 Republican convention because of new party rules.
    The Republicans only want four states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- to hold contests in February. States that hold primaries before March 15 must also award delegates proportionally, not on a winner-take-all basis.
    Under another bill, HB 1936, party primaries for Congress, the state Legislature as well as statewide and county offices, would be set for the first Tuesday after the third Monday in June instead of the Tuesday after the first Monday in August.
    This bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee for further consideration before it can go to the House floor for debate.
    Camden County Clerk Rowland Todd said that he would understand moving the Presidential Primary to March if another primary is done away with.
    "We can't afford any more [elections]," Todd added.
    If the pieces of legislation were to pass and be signed by Gov. Jay Nixon, the presidential primary, held every four years, would be March 15.
    Municipal elections would still be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April of each year. Then the August primary election, held every two years, would be moved to June.
    Absentee voting may also become confusing which has many clerks around the state worried since absentee ballots must be available six weeks prior to the election date.
    "This could cause overlapping and staff issues for smaller counties," Todd said.
    Every four years, people would be voting absentee for both the presidential
    primary and for the April municipal elections at the same time. Then by the end of April, absentee ballots would need to be available for the party primaries, if that election were to be held in June.
    Candidates also would be filing around the same time for both municipal and
    primary elections if the bills are approved. The starting date for candidate filing in party primaries would be moved up from February to January under the bill. Filing for municipal offices is held from December to January.
    Rep. Tony Dugger, a Hartville Republican, is sponsoring both bills.
    Dugger said that by changing the presidential primary date, it would ensure Missouri would be relevant in selecting the 2016 presidential nominee.
    The bill that would move up the party primaries would take effect in 2016, meaning the primary date in that year would be June 21, instead of Aug. 9.
    Page 2 of 2 - The date change would give primary winners about six extra weeks to focus on their opponent from the other party.
    "Moving the date gives us more time to meet the candidates who are going to be running," said Dugger.
    Opponents say the earlier primary date would force incumbent lawmakers to campaign more aggressively during the legislative session, which runs until mid-May. The new date would give lawmakers about half the time to compete against fellow party members after a session ends.
    During the 2012 election, primary races were the decisive contest in determining who would be elected to the state Legislature in many instances.
    Of the 17 Senate races up for election, five candidates had no general election opponent and were elected to the Senate because they beat fellow party members in the August primary. An additional four Senate seats were uncontested in either the general election or primary election that year. The 2012 state House races show a similar pattern. The whole House -- 163 seats -- was up for grabs, but just 90 races featured November contests between candidates from any two parties. Thirty-three races were decided in a primary and an additional 40 were uncontested in either election.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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