Whitmer signs early presidential primary bill, unclear whether it takes effect for 2024

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill to move Michigan's presidential primary forward to February following a proposal from President Joe Biden to make Michigan among the early primary states. But the change might not take effect in time for 2024.

The Democratic bill to move Michigan's primary from the second Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in February passed along party-line votes in the state House and Senate. Republicans objected because under current Republican National Committee (RNC) rules, a GOP primary in February would significantly reduce the number of delegates Michigan sends to the Republican National Convention.

GOP opposition means that the bill wasn't granted immediate effect. Under the current legislative calendar, it won't go into effect until March 2024, after the Feb. 27, 2024, primary election sought by Democrats.

But the new law sends a signal to the RNC to adjust their calendar heading into the next presidential campaign, said state Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who introduced the bill. "Because I think there's going to be a groundswell from the Republican electorate not understanding why their own national party leaders don’t see the same value in their voters as we do," he said.

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Moss said the best next step is pressuring the RNC to get onboard with an early primary in Michigan in 2024. That could lead Republicans to support a new bill making the change to the calendar immediate, Moss said.

"We are demonstrating to the RNC that we are serious about putting the Michigan voter first and early, and hopefully they see as much value in Michigan as we have," he said.

Michigan Democrats tout the earlier primary date as a way to encourage presidential candidates to focus on issues important to voters in the state. They also argue that Michigan's population better represents the nation as a whole compared with states that have traditionally gone first.

"As a diverse, dynamic, optimistic state where we are building the future, Michigan is an ideal place to hold an early presidential primary," Whitmer said in a statement.

In addition to the path outlined by Moss to put the change in place by next year, the Michigan GOP could hold a nominating caucus or convention in lieu of a primary election. Democratic state lawmakers could also end the legislative session early, allowing the bill to take effect in time for a February 2024 presidential primary.

Democratic state lawmakers could also ultimately decide to wait until 2028 to hold a February primary. If Biden faces no competition in a reelection campaign — resulting in an uncontested Democratic primary — Democrats could allow the change in the primary date from the second Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in February to take effect after the 2024 presidential cycle.

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Whitmer signs bill to move Michigan presidential primary