Florida's Presidential Primaries To Move Back To March

Mar 3, 2015

Credit R.Benk / WFSU

After two national presidential primary fails, Florida lawmakers are changing the date. The legislature is on its way to reversing the 2016 presidential primaries from January back to March.

Florida’s reputation as an influential swing state in elections hasn’t gone unnoticed. At one point, state lawmakers were fed up with being recognized after states like Iowa and New Hampshire during the presidential primaries.

There was also the fact that those other states had a much less diverse voter pool to wade through, as USF political scientist Susan MacMannus explains.

“Both parties felt like the process was nominating people that then would have more difficulty in maneuvering and successfully winning office by having to go through large urban states which had a much different kind of politics.”

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, Florida had early primaries in January.

This turned out to be a bad idea, and didn’t go over well with the national parties, especially the GOP. It wanted Florida to adhere to a set deadline of March. Florida’s Republican Party had many of its delegates reduced, as a penalty.

Since the Democratic Party distributes its delegates equally amongst candidates, the Republican Party took the blow much harder.

“So there’s a lot of interest in adhering more to the party rules this time out," MacMannus continued, "which would allow the republican party of Florida to make the decision to give whoever wins all of the delegates, instead of proportional allocation.”

So, in order to get their delegates back and comply with the GOP-et-al, Florida’s legislature moved the primary deadline back where it was, following the 2012 election.

“And so March 1st was placed in the statute as being the appropriate date to consider having the presidential preference primary," explained Ron Lebasky, the General Council for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. "At this point, the decision has been reached in the legislature to move that back from the March 1st date to March 15th, I think again to more consistently fall within the party rules.”

And Monday, the bill to change the date to the 15th of March was passed so quickly it left rubber on the linoleum. No deliberation, no discussion or objection, and it passed unanimously.

The same bill was brought to the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee the following day. State Senator John Legg treated the committee to a pun referencing the Ides of March, with some debate from Chris Smith on the pronunciation of “Ides.”

Mispronunciations aside, the proposal zipped through and is once again on a fast track through the legislature.