Pennsylvania Senate Votes for Earlier Presidential Primary Date

By the time the Pennsylvania primary rolls around on April 23, fewer candidates are in the race.
Pennsylvania Senate Votes for Earlier Presidential Primary Date
Pennsylvania Capitol Building at the center of the skyline in Harrisburg, Pa., on Jan. 7, 2023. (Beth Brelje/The Epoch Times)
Beth Brelje

Presidential candidates attend the Iowa State Fair and crisscross the state, stumping in the summer and fall before an election year because the Iowa caucus is the first voting measure of public support.

Iowa’s Republican and Democratic presidential caucuses will be held on Jan. 15, 2024. Candidates who fare poorly in Iowa may rethink their strategy or decide to drop out of the race based on their performance in the state, with a population of 3.2 million.

It is the same dynamic with each early primary, as voters narrow the candidates and decide who should run in the general election.

By the time the Pennsylvania primary rolls around on April 23, few candidates are still in the race. That is why, in a 45–2 vote, the Pennsylvania Senate this week passed a bill to move the primary up to March 19. The measure still must be approved by the House, then signed by the governor.

With a population of 12.9 million, Pennsylvania is a key battleground state.

“Election night after election night during the presidential races, we're waiting for Pennsylvania. Our electoral college votes are determining who is going to be the president. But in the beginning, when we're nominating candidates, our voices are muted,” Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward said on the floor.

“Our primary is so late, that so many other states have already voted, that we don't matter. So here we are, the fifth most registered voters in the country, not having input into who the candidates are for our parties. This bill is Pennsylvania citizens' voice at the beginning in the process, because it always comes down to us at the end of the process.”

If the earlier date of March 19 is approved, Pennsylvania will hold its primary on the same date as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio, but it would be after California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

A movement to make the Pennsylvania primary earlier has come up in past presidential years. This time the scheduled primary date, April 23, is the same date as the first day of Passover, an important Jewish holiday when Jews would not be working.

Gov. Josh Shapiro has said he supports changing the date.

State law sets Pennsylvania’s primary date on the fourth Tuesday in April and, according to The Associated Press, the state has not had a competitive presidential primary since 2008, when Hillary Clinton won the state primary over Barack Obama but ultimately lost the Democratic nomination.

National Order Debated

Last year the Republican National Committee voted to maintain its voting order, with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada going ahead of other states.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) wants to make the South Carolina primary first, a move supported by President Joe Biden. In December, President Biden told the DNC “we must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout that entire early window.”

South Carolina has a population of 5.3 million people.

Putting South Carolina first would require New Hampshire, population 1.4 million, to repeal its law mandating that the state hold the first presidential primary every four years. But neither the Iowa nor New Hampshire Democrats wish to lose their early place in the order.

The DNC has said it will remove some of New Hampshire’s delegates at the Democratic National Convention next year if it doesn't follow the DNC’s primary calendar changes.

It is worth noting that Iowa’s caucuses and the primaries held in other states are run differently, and that is why New Hampshire is said to have the first primary, although the Iowa caucuses come first on the calendar.

Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]