Democrats win, GOP upset as Michigan votes to move up presidential primary
- Michigan Democrats advance presidential primary bill without bipartisan support
- Bill now goes to a supportive Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for signature
- Republicans cry foul, claiming lack of transparency and parliamentary shenanigans
LANSING — With little discussion, Michigan Democratic lawmakers approved a plan Tuesday to move up the state’s presidential primary dates to late February, a move that would boost their national clout and wound Republicans in the process.
House lawmakers on Tuesday voted 56-53 along party lines to hold the 2024 presidential primaries on Feb. 27, up from March 12 under current law. A parliamentary maneuver may allow the plan to take effect next year, even though the bill fell short of a super-majority when the Senate approved it last week.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — a rumored potential presidential candidate who says she has no interest in a campaign — is likely to sign the bill. It would make Michigan one of the first states to hold presidential primaries, a move supported by Democratic President Joe Biden.
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“We value the voices of Michigan voters who are deserving of early participation in choosing each party’s presidential nominee,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, and Senate bill sponsor Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said in a joint statement Tuesday.
Republicans have opposed a move because Republican National Committee rules prohibit Michigan from holding primaries before March 1.
The Democratic plan risks cutting GOP delegates at the national convention by 90 percent, Rep. Andrew Beeler, R-Fort Gratiot, told reporters after the House session.
“It’s basically spitting in the face of half of the state,” Beeler said.
Responding to the Republican concerns, Amber McCann, spokesperson for House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, told reporters “I don’t believe there is anything that would prevent the RNC from ensuring the delegates from Michigan are properly counted.”
While the Tuesday vote delivered a win for Democrats, they still face hurdles to make sure it takes effect in time.
The bill did not have enough votes in the Senate to take effect immediately. Under the state Constitution, it won’t take effect until 90 calendar days after the legislative session ends this year.
That means the state Legislature must adjourn for the year by Nov. 29 for the bill to apply to the 2024 presidential primary, according to McCann. The Legislature typically adjourns in December.
“(But) there’s nothing that stops the governor from calling a special session of the Legislature,” McCann said.
The bill was passed on the last day before the legislation would become moot.
Under Democratic National Committee rules, Michigan Democrats must certify by Feb. 1 “any such necessary statutory or regulatory changes have been made” at the state level to move up the presidential primary date.
But the DNC rules committee voted last week to allow New Hampshire and Georgia more time to change their presidential primary dates, the Associated Press reported. It’s unclear if the panel would offer Michigan the same extension in the future.
Democrats regained control of the both chambers of the Legislature in January after nearly 40 years. They have repeatedly stressed they will work with Republicans.
“How many times have we heard unity, bipartisanship, nonpartisanship?” Beeler said.
Rep. Jay DeBoyer, R-Clay, said he was denied an opportunity to speak against the bill and called the measure “an ultimate embarrassment of transparency.”
McCann called Beeler’s claim “disingenuous,” contending House Minority Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, should have put DeBoyer’s name on the list of speakers.
“There’s nothing that prevented Leader Hall from adding that representative to the list,” she said. “Seems like they’ve waited after the fact to make a point of order more for theatrics than for a real issue.”
Before the House vote, Michigan lawmakers had discussed a potential proposal to hold two separate primaries, with the Democratic primary on Feb. 27 next year and the Republican one two weeks after, Senate GOP spokesperson Jeff Wiggins confirmed to Bridge on Tuesday.
McCann told reporters Tuesday she is “not aware of House members having serious discussions about two dates.”
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