Local Politics

Some Campaign for Earlier N.C. Primary

Posted January 7, 2008 6:56 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2008 9:01 p.m. EST

— Voters in more than 40 states will have cast their ballots in presidential primaries before North Carolina voters head to the polls on May 6, prompting officials to revisit the idea of moving the state's primary up on the calendar.

The Republican and Democratic candidates will likely be decided before the North Carolina primary, which makes it difficult to attract candidates to come to the state to campaign. Observers say that deprives residents of meeting and listening to contenders in person and deprives the state of the national exposure and campaign spending that places like Iowa and New Hampshire receive.

"North Carolina is not a player on the national scene," said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

"When it comes to presidential politics, there's no reason to show up to the polls. We are just completely cast out of that process," said Damon Circosta, acting executive director of the North Carolina Center For Voter Education.

Circosta's group backed a plan last year to move the state's primary from May to late January or early February, but the bill died in the General Assembly.

"There are several important people in this state who are running for statewide office, and they didn't want to move their election schedule up just to accommodate the presidency," he said.

Bartlett said it was "too late in the process going into the election year" to move up the 2008 primary.

He said the state could create a separate presidential primary that would preserve the traditional vetting process for state candidates. It would cost an additional $5 million, however, and it could erode voter turnout in May.

Complicating matters even more, several other states have already pushed toward the front of the line. Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Florida hold primaries over the next two weeks before the 24 state primaries scheduled for "Super Tuesday" on Feb. 5.

"We're going to need a national solution. That's going to require something like a rotating regional primary," Circosta said.