Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are divided over multiple proposed dates for next year’s presidential primary.
The state’s House Government Committee proposed moving the primary from April 23 to April 2. The committee had rejected a proposal to move the primary up by five weeks to March 19.
“I think at its core, people recognize that Pennsylvania is frankly the center of the political universe,” said state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, per WTAE. “If you want to win a national election in the United States of America, you have to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Kenyatta’s bill proposes that, during even-numbered years when a presidential candidate is slated to be nominated, a primary will be held on the first Tuesday of April rather than the fourth Tuesday.
Some lawmakers argue moving the primary to earlier in April will avoid conflicting with Passover, a Jewish holiday where some observers avoid driving and writing. Others have argued an earlier primary will give Pennsylvania voters more influence as the political parties select their nominees.
Opponents of the change argued an April 2 primary could create conflicts and burdens for some communities.
“April 2 would be just two days after Easter next year. Lawmakers aired concerns about polling equipment being in place in churches around the Holy Week, and whether poll workers would be away for the holiday,” reports AP News. “Republicans emphasized the impact it would have to schools’ calendars, the work it would put on counties to abbreviate their own and potential changes to voters’ habits as reasons to not move the primary at all, at this point.”
The new bill passed 13-12 with largely Democratic support. The state House will vote on the proposal next before the change becomes official.
The committee’s vote is still in conflict with a different primary date agreed to by the state’s other legislative chamber.
The Pennsylvania Senate passed a resolution 45-2 to move the presidential primary to March 19. Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Arizona will all hold their primaries on March 19. The March date would move the Pennsylvania primary before the primary dates currently scheduled for New York Delaware, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, per ABC 27.
State senators argued it is important to strategically select Pennsylvania’s 2024 primary date to ensure maximum influence on a national level,
“Pennsylvania plays a critical role in deciding our nation’s leaders, yet when it comes to the primary election process, Pennsylvanians have little to no say in who the candidates will be in the general election as our primary election is late in the process. By the time Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to select candidates for the general election, many potentially good candidates have already exited the race due to results in earlier primary states,” Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, a Republican, said in a statement. “This bill will change that by positioning Pennsylvania to have more influence in selecting candidates earlier for the general election by moving up the 2024 primary election date to March 19.”