Senator wants to change two primaries

State Sen. Will Kraus wants Missouri lawmakers to move two primary election dates permanently.

One proposed change would comply with demands from the national political parties, while the other comes because “There’s a belief that there are some people who would like more time between the primary and the actual general election,” Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, told a Senate committee this week.

Kraus’ two bills would move the presidential primary, every four years, from February to March, and the August primary in even numbered years to June.

“After doing some research, (we found that) 31 states have an earlier primary than we do,” he told the Senate’s Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee Monday afternoon.

“Eighteen of them have the primary in June.”

In general, elections in Missouri are on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of specified months — especially April, August and November.

Under current law, primary elections for county and state offices are in August, in even-numbered years. This year’s primary is Aug. 5.

Starting in 2016, Kraus’ bill would move those primary elections to the first Tuesday after the third Monday in June — which, if the proposal becomes law, would be June 21, 2016.

And Kraus would move the candidate filing dates — now set from the last Tuesday in February to the last Tuesday in March — to a three-week window beginning the second week in January through the first week of February.

No one opposed the proposal during last Monday’s hearing.

In his other bill heard Monday, Kraus wants to move the presidential preference primary to the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March, which he said is “the first date available, according to the national rules that are out there right now.”

On Thursday, the House passed its version of the bill and sent it to the Senate, so senators may have two chances to vote on the proposal this session.

When lawmakers in the late 1990s approved holding a statewide presidential primary, they wanted Missouri to have some influence in the process by being an “early” primary state rather than a later one.

But several years ago, national political party leaders voiced concerns that too many states were trying to hold their primaries early.

The national parties said only a few, designated states could be early, and other states would lose some of their convention delegates unless they changed their primary election dates — or chose delegates in caucuses held after the authorized early primary states.

Three years ago, Missouri lawmakers couldn’t agree on moving the presidential primary for 2012. So it remained in February, and the parties held caucuses for their official delegate-selection process.

“We had a primary that we paid $7 million for, that didn’t count for anything other than a popularity contest,” Kraus told the committee.

He said the Jackson County caucus he attended “disenfranchised people because it cut people off at the door. The building only allowed 1,100 people, so 1,100 people got in — everybody else was sent away.”

Kraus thinks the primary election “allowing a person to cast their vote for who they think should be our president is the best way to go.”

Moving the primary to the middle of March could create some problems for county clerks and their early-April municipal and school board elections, lobbyist Mark Rhoads testified.

“As an example, the machines that are used for one election have to be locked down and have to be secured for 30 days,” he explained. “So, those machines may not be available for the other election that comes within 30 days.”

Still, Rhoads said, those problems likely can be overcome.

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