HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A bill that would move Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries up the political calendar advanced forward through a divided House State Government Committee on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 428 would move Pennsylvania’s presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.
The vote was 16-8, with two Democrats joining all Republicans in favor. Supporters say the change would position the state to have more of an impact on the parties’ choice of presidential candidates.
“Right now Pennsylvania’s primary really doesn’t matter in the scheme of national politics,” said committee chair Seth Grove, R-York, noting a recent exception was the Barack Obama-Hillary Rodham Clinton primary in 2008.
The bill passed nearly unanimously in the State Senate on Dec. 14, 2021, with a 49-0 vote with one member, Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair), who did not vote. It was also approved for consideration by the full House.
Grove and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Scott Conklin of Centre County, both said the bill may need to be altered so that the period of signature gathering does not start around Christmas.
The third Tuesday in March is expected to also be the 2024 presidential primary day in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. In 2020, Pennsylvania’s primary was the same day as votes in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Delaware.
While residents of Iowa have traditionally been the first to cast their votes in presidential primaries through a caucus, New Hampshire is traditionally the first primary election of the presidential election season.
Several states have sought to move up their presidential primaries, including Nevada and South Carolina.
States that vote earlier in the primary race have had an influence on which candidates remain in the race. Three candidates (Michael Bennet, Andrew Yang, and Deval Patrick) dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary the evening and day after the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary after receiving low support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report