Last week, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla testified in support of moving the California presidential primary back to the third Tuesday of March.
Like a child seeking attention, California has been yo-yoing its presidential primary between June and earlier months in order to gain a stronger voice in the choice of the presidential candidates.
“SB 568 will help make California relevant again in the selection process of our next president. In 2016, the two candidates had nearly sewn up their party’s nomination by the time our state’s primary election was held in June,” said Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin. “As the world’s sixth largest economy with the nation’s largest population, it’s absurd that California had no real say in who the presidential candidates would be.”
In 2016, the state primary was in June, but both parties had essentially identified who would be their candidates through the earlier primaries. Donald Trump defeated a cadre of more than a dozen other Republicans for the party’s nomination and Hillary Clinton struggled with the challenge of Sen. Bernie Sanders, but her nomination was seldom in doubt.
“Too often, California votes too late to impact and influence the presidential nominating process,” Alex Padilla said in a press release. “Too often, California is relegated to serving as the nation’s political ATM. California is the largest and most diverse state in the nation and we deserve our commensurate voice in the nomination of presidential candidates. SB 568 gives power to the California voters by putting our presidential primary in prime time.”
Despite a large turnout for the June primary in 2016, Padilla was disappointed. “If it was just up to me, let’s make California right after Iowa, or New Hampshire,” he said in an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune, “If California would be consistently third, then California would be consistently very much paid attention to in the primary by both parties.”
This is not the first effort to bring California to the front of the presidential race. In 1996, the state’s presidential primary was in March. Nine other states had already held their primaries and 13 other states held their primaries on the same day, according to the report from the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.
In 2008, the California primary was in February for presidential race as well as state and local offices. This was deemed too early and the primaries were returned to the first Tuesday in June.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), said “The goal of Senate Bill 568 is to move California’s presidential primary election to third after Iowa and New Hampshire. Specifically, SB 568 calls for the California presidential primary to be held on the third Tuesday in March and authorizes the governor to move it even earlier if other states move up their primary elections.”
SB 568 would also move up primary elections in statewide office and legislative races, eliminating potential voter confusion from multiple election dates.
Also last week, Padilla announced his support for Assembly Bill 668, the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018, which seeks $450 million to improve California’s voting systems. The funding would update aging equipment and also modernize how the state conducts elections to improve the voting experience.
In March, the Legislative Analyst’s Office asked the Legislature to consider one-time funding to replace aging voting systems.