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State Legislature passes early presidential primary bill, likely without votes to take effect for 2024

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Michigan’s next presidential primary could move up to late February under a bill passed in the state House of Representatives Tuesday.

The bill would make Michigan the fifth state to vote in the primaries, behind South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada and Georgia, if the change is also approved by the full Democratic National Committee. It already passed the state Senate last week.

“The legislative majority sent a strong signal today that we value the voices of Michigan voters who are deserving of early participation in choosing each party’s presidential nominee,” bill sponsor Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said in a joint press release.

The bill passed along party lines in both chambers of the Legislature. Republican lawmakers worried moving the primary up too soon would cost their party nominating convention delegates under Republican National Committee rules.

During a floor speech, Representative Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Twp) called the bill “disenfranchising.”

"By moving the 2024 presidential primary to February, half the voters in this state could have their vote not count. Senate Bill 13 is partisan politics at its absolute worst,” Bollin said.

But Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Democratic House leadership, said Republicans could always change their mind.

“I don’t believe there’s anything that will prevent the RNC from ensuring the delegates from Michigan are properly counted,” she told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Democrats need Republican support in the Senate for a procedural vote that would allow the bill to take effect in time for the 2024 primary. Specifically, six Senate Republicans would have to vote to grant the bill immediate effect.

Without it, remaining options become limited.

That's because, according to the state constitution, new laws only take effect 90 days after the legislative session ends, unless they receive the two-thirds vote necessary for immediate effect. If the Legislature continues to meet until after the last currently scheduled session day, it wouldn’t adjourn sine die until fewer than 90 days before the proposed February 27 election date.

When asked if that would be Democratic leadership’s strategy to get around the bill potentially not getting immediate effect in the Senate, McCann pushed back.

“I understand the focus on sine die setting then the ability for this bill to have the impact it’s intended,” McCann said. “But I don’t want to mix up and suggest that because we’re passing this bill, that somehow indicates that the House has decided when the end of their calendar will be.”

Senate Republicans have previously said the issue around delegate loss would be resolved by moving the primary election date a couple days back to March.

But time ran thin for Democrats to reach a deal ahead of a deadline to certify its new primary date with the Democratic National Committee.

“By February 1, 2023 the Michigan Democratic Party must certify to the Co-Chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee that any such necessary statutory or regulatory changes have been made,” a document approved at a December 2 DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee read.

Last week, the DNC panel voted to give Georgia and New Hampshire more time to meet a compliance deadline.