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17 March 2011

GA House Passes Bill Giving Secretary of State Power to Set Presidential Primary Date

Lost in the coverage of the Senate passing its Sunday alcohol sales was action taken by the Georgia House of Representatives that could significantly alter how presidential candidates approach the Peach State every four years.

The House, Wednesday, passed legislation that would give the Secretary of State wide discretion in setting Georgia's presidential primary date.

HB 454 allows the Secretary of State to select a date for the presidential primary, provided that the date is no later than the second Tuesday in June in presidential election years and is set by December 1st in the year immediately preceding the primary.

Josh Putnam, who runs the blog Frontloading HQ, wrote on his site that if HB 454 becomes law, Georgia would have a lot of "leeway" to set a presidential primary date that puts the state apart from other primary states.

. . . let's look at this in the context of 2012. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, if given this authority, could wait all the way up to December 1, and like New Hampshire, see where all the other states are going to be positioned on the calendar. Now, 60 days from December 1 is January 30. That is just enough time to see not where New Hampshire is positioned, but where Florida ends up. Oddly -- or not so oddly enough -- Florida is currently positioned on January 31. Kemp can wait it out, see if Florida budges, how the RNC reacts and set the date of the Georgia primary accordingly. If the RNC caves to Florida's insistence on being on January 31, then Kemp could move Georgia up to coincide with its neighbor to the south on January 31. But if the RNC comes down hard on Florida, Kemp could move Georgia's primary back into compliance with national party rules (on March 6, for instance).

House Bill 454 cleared the House on a vote of 153 to 21. The bill now sits in the Senate Ethics Committee.