Lawmakers won't budge on primary election date


House Speaker Shap Smith has blocked a proposal to move up the primary election deadline.

Smith says moving up the primary will have a cascading effect and lead to an earlier deadline for candidates who must file signature petitions before May 22. Smith and House members say the change wouldn't give candidates enough time to file the forms after the legislative session ends the first week of May. It's too late in the game, to change the deadlines now, he said.

"I'm worried about candidates' ability to have some certainty in the electoral process when it's already started in April," Smith said.

The primary date will remain the fourth Tuesday in August. This year the date is Aug. 26.

Last year, the Senate voted down a push to move the primary to the first week of August.

Part of the problem politically is that the primary election date, which for many years was held in mid-September, was changed in 2010, and lawmakers are loath to move it again.

But Secretary of State Jim Condos says if lawmakers don't change the date, the Department of Justice will do it for them.

Condos has insisted that the change was necessary in order to ensure the state's compliance with federal law. Condos has argued that his office needs more time between the primary and the General Election in the event there is a recount. The secretary's office missed overseas ballot deadlines as the result of a Progressive Party primary recount in 2012. As a result, the Department of Justice has threatened to assign the state a much earlier deadline.

Smith says he has "complete confidence" in the Secretary of State's ability to meet the expectations of the Department of Justice.

S.86 will be taken up by the House of Representatives on Thursday. House Government Operations passed the bill 11-0.


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