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Michigan Senate votes to move up presidential primary, but GOP may thwart plan

biden on stage
President Joe Biden says he wants to rearrange the schedule of presidential primaries and caucuses because he’s concerned the Democratic Party is taking votes of African Americans “for granted” by having the predominately white state of Iowa host its vote first. (Miroslav Tomoski /
  • Michigan Senate approves bill for Feb. 27 primary
  • Democrats want the change and have votes to finalize it
  • But change won’t happen by 2024 without some GOP support

LANSING  — Michigan Senate Democrats on Thursday voted to move up the state's presidential primary beginning next year, but the fate of the proposal is in jeopardy because of widespread Republican opposition.

While Democrats have new majorities in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature, they'll need some Senate Republican votes to give the bill immediate effect so that it would apply to the 2024 presidential primary.


That would move the presidential primary to Feb. 27, from the first Tuesday in March, making Michigan one of the first five states to vote.


So far, Democrats have zero Republican votes and little time to change minds: The Democratic National Committee wants legislation finalized by next week. 

Thursday's 20-18 vote keeps the hope alive for Michigan Democrats. It gives the House time to approve the legislation early next week before it comes back to the Senate, where it will need a two-thirds majority for immediate effect.

"This just gives us a little longer runway" to negotiate with Republicans, said sponsoring Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield.  "I'm hopeful we can get to a solution here, but this is the first step of that process." 

The Democratic National Committee is poised to change its primary orders at the behest of President Joe Biden, who raised concerns the party was taking African-American voters "for granted" by putting an overwhelmingly white state like Iowa at the front of the line.

Supporters say moving up Michigan's presidential primary date will make the state a more important player in the race, forcing candidates to pay more attention to local issues and forcing their campaigns to spend money at local hotels and restaurants. 

Republicans don't disagree, but they say a late February primary proposed by Democrats would move Michigan into a position that violates separate rules set by the Republican National Committee. 


And that means Michigan Republicans could lose delegates to the 2024 GOP nominating convention where the party's presidential nominee will be decided, said Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt. 

"This legislation will unfortunately... disenfranchise Michigan voters," Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, said in a floor speech. "I do think we need to make sure the primary counts for both parties, not just the party that's in power." 

Republicans might back the legislation if it first applied to the 2028 presidential primary, which would create time for a GOP rule change, Nesbitt said, signaling a willingness to negotiate.

But under current rules, the national party would penalize the Michigan GOP if it holds its primary before March 1, Nesbitt added. 

"Why not have the primary when the results will fully count for both parties?"

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