Lawmakers ponder primary move to March

Posted September 2, 2015 1:35 p.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2015 2:51 p.m. EDT

Election/Decision 2016 graphic

— A bill that would move North Carolina's presidential primary from May to March was put on hold Wednesday as lawmakers discuss whether to move all other primaries to March as well.

House lawmakers voted Wednesday afternoon to send House Bill 373 to a conference committee, where major changes could be made to it.

In 2013, the legislature voted to split the state's presidential primary from its other primary elections. While the other primaries would remain in May, the presidential contest would move to February – one week after South Carolina's primary, which is one of the first in the nation.

At the time, backers said the move would help bring national attention to North Carolina and make it "more relevant" in the selection of each party's presidential candidate. By the time of the traditional May primary, they argued, the races are almost always decided.

However, the national parties rejected the state's attempt to jump the primary line. The Republican National Committee threatened to take away all but 12 of the state's 72 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention unless the state changed the date to comply with party rules passed in 2012.

Both the House and the Senate voted earlier this session to move the presidential primary date to March 15.

According to State Board of Elections spokesman Josh Lawson, based on last fall's election costs, the additional presidential primary is expected to cost counties statewide around $9.5 million.

House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said discussions are underway on moving all other primary elections to March 15, avoiding the need for two primaries.

Lewis made the motion to send the bill to conference committee, which was supported unanimously by the House, 104-0.

He told WRAL News in an email that no final decision has been made yet, but added, "It is also important to note that we will take action to make sure NC maintains its full delegate strength at the National Conventions."