Pennsylvania’s Delayed Primary to Fall on ‘Super Tuesday II’

A dozen states will hold primary on June 2

Emily Previti

Pennsylvania’s primary will be postponed until June 2 once Gov. Tom Wolf signs the bill passed this week by the legislature.

Once it’s official, Pennsylvania will join a dozen states that have postponed their presidential primaries in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Three states – Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming – are extending mailed ballot deadlines.

But of the ten that rescheduled in-person voting, seven (including Pa.) are going with June 2.

This New York Times story explains how June 2 is nearly the last Tuesday to schedule a primary without running afoul of Democratic National Committee rules that require delegates to the party’s nominating convention to be submitted no later than June 20.

Miss that deadline and state parties risk forfeiting half their delegates, notes Josh Putnam, a political scientist who runs the Frontloading HQ blog.

What, then, of Louisiana postponing until June 20 and Kentucky until June 23?

“They’re not paying a whole lot of attention to party rules. That’s historically been the case. Other states have moved [presidential primaries] before, in the past, and ignored the rules,” Putnam said.

He noted the case of Florida in 2008, when a Republican legislature ignored Democratic Party rules over when the state could hold its primary. “They definitely didn’t care about the DNC,” he said.

“I think it’s too early to tell whether the DNC’s going to levy the penalty or not,” Putnam said, referring to a loss of delegates a state can send to the convention. “The DNC is keenly interested in getting states’ delegate selection processes in line: who those human beings are going to be, who will gather in Milwaukee, whenever that is, or remotely, should that be the case,” he said.

DNC higher-ups have been firm: they won’t delay the convention (July 13-16) or conduct it remotely.

“They’re saying that right now because of the complexities of the process,” said Terry Madonna, public affairs professor who runs Franklin and Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs. “They have to be consistent, … or end up with chaos in terms of delegate selection. But, who knows what will happen. We’re in uncharted territory.”

States could’ve moved their primaries to June 9 without sacrificing delegates; however, none has as of this writing (officials in New York, for example, committed to moving their primary but have not yet settled on a date).

Madonna says June 9 is nearly too late to hold a primary, given the possible problems that can arise in any election. And this year, states anticipate a deluge of mailed ballots as voters try to stick to social distancing imperatives, he said.

The states that moved first to delay their primaries likely went with June 2 (versus the 9th), in part, because that’s when the very last regularly scheduled primaries will be held (in the continental U.S., that is; it’s June 6 in the Virgin Islands), Putnam noted.

And once a few states settled on June 2, it likely encouraged others to do the same, Putnam and Madonna said.

With the delays, nearly a dozen states will run nominating contests June 2, 2020 — a date that effectively becomes the second Super Tuesday of the year.

PA Post is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom covering politics and policy in Pennsylvania. For more, go to PaPost.org.
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