RALEIGH – Amid all the attention being paid to constitutional amendment bills being moved by the Republican-led General Assembly, another bill went to the governor’s desk Thursday that also relates to the ballot box.
Senate Bill 655 would change the date even year primary elections are held in the Old North State. Originally filed in 2017, the House and Senate passed slightly different versions last year but never followed through with a consensus bill.
A two page bill, SB655 simply strikes through the word ‘May’ (when primaries are currently held) and replaces it with ‘March’ for all elections in even numbered years.
This isn’t the first time a primary has been moved up, however. The primary for 2016 was pulled forward to March in an effort to garner more attention from presidential contenders, and played a part in making North Carolina such a key battleground state.
It was a one-off, though, and this years primaries were again held in May.
SB655 would make the one-off move to March a permanent change starting in 2020, cementing North Carolina’s place as a significant variable in midterm and presidential election arithmetic going forward.
The move to March would also pull forward the candidate filing period from February to December of the previous year.
Moving primary dates to earlier on the schedule could have the effect of energizing voter bases interested in the chance to actually have a stronger voice in selecting primary winners for nationwide races. Especially in presidential elections, states with later scheduled primaries can often be voting after leading primary candidates have all but locked up their nominations.