If the first in a series of forums on Colorado’s caucus and primary system is any indication, voters love caucuses, despite the headaches, and strongly oppose moving back to a presidential primary system. Still in question is whether such forums – organized without legislative authorization by Senate Republicans – can be trusted to reflect the views of the general public. On Saturday, a group of mostly Republican state senators listened as voters, voter groups, and Libertarian and Republican party officials gave their assessment of the primary-overhaul proposals that died in the 2016 legislative session and shared their thoughts on what to do in future election years. The forum was noteworthy for the absence of Democrats. A spokesman for Colorado’s Democratic Party said Chairman Rick Palacio wasn’t invited to the forum until the last minute and declined to participate in what on Twitter he called a “work of fiction.”
For those who hoped New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary would serve as a snapshot of the 2016 election cycle, Tuesday could prove a more literal reward than expected. The Granite State has a new voter ID law this year, and while those who arrive at the polls without the required forms of identification will still be allowed to cast a ballot, they must first sign an affidavit and also let a poll worker take their picture. Ballot-access advocates worry the process could lead to voter intimidation, as well as depress turnout due to longer lines at polling places. According to a Los Angeles Times column by Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” wait times “increased by 50 percent when the [New Hampshire] voter ID law was partially implemented, without the camera requirement, during the 2012 election.”
The Utah Republican Party is asking the Lieutenant Governor’s office to help hurry a dispute over how candidates are nominated to a court so a judge can rule on the matter because, as the party chairman put it, the top elections office is no longer an “honest broker” on the issue. State GOP Chairman James Evans cited comments by Mark Thomas, the state elections director, in which he characterized as “crazy stuff” Evans’ contention that the party can decide whether to let candidates gather signatures to get on the primary ballot. “We have decided it is in the best interests of the party to not seek the [lieutenant governor’s] interpretation of the law,” Evans said. “Instead, we want to proceed to court for a determination since we have lost confidence that we would get a fair hearing and that the LG’s office would be an honest broker.”
Utah: Election dispute likely headed back to court, unless lawmakers intervene | The Salt Lake Tribune
A clash between the head of Utah’s Republican Party and Republican elections officials over who can seek the party’s nomination for office appears likely to end up back in court if the Legislature doesn’t settle the matter in a special session first. Utah GOP Chairman James Evans contends that party officials have figured out a way to only allow its candidates to be nominated through party conventions — essentially gutting sweeping elections reforms the Legislature enacted in 2014 that allowed candidates to skip conventions and gather signatures on petitions if they want to seek office. But Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and the top elections officials in his office disagree. They argue that Evans and the GOP agreed in an August letter to the state to comply with SB54, and that includes allowing candidates to seek the party’s nomination through the signature-gathering route.
Rand Paul is giving new meaning to the term “buying an election.” Over the weekend, the Kentucky senator said he gave $250,000 to his state’s Republican Party for the explicit purpose of funding its presidential caucus in March. He promised to pony up another $200,000 in the fall, enough to cover the entire cost of the nominating event. Put another way: Paul is paying the party to hold an election in which he is running. He’s doing it neither to ensure a victory nor out of the simple goodness of his heart. No, Paul is making a rather blatant end-run around state law, and he’s compensating the Kentucky GOP for going along with him. The law forbids someone from appearing on the same ballot as a candidate for two different offices, and Paul, who is up for reelection next year, doesn’t want to give up his Senate seat to make his rather long-shot bid for the presidency.
The state Democratic Party said it must abandon its traditional – but sometimes complex and confusing – primary process called the Texas Two-Step. The national party rejected the Texas plan last Friday, leaving state party leadership to revise the process in favor of a straightforward vote. The Texas primary next year falls on March 1 and is part of the Super Tuesday balloting, in which Texas will have the largest treasure trove of delegates among the 12 states voting.
Addressing hundreds of supporters while campaigning in Keene, N.H., last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared: “Let me tell you a secret: We’re going to win New Hampshire!” He has some reason to feel confident, given that a new poll put him just 10 percentage points behind front-runner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary in the Granite State. But before he pops the champagne corks, I have a secret of my own to share with the senator: He may not qualify for the New Hampshire ballot as a Democrat. To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to set the time of federal elections but not the manner in which political parties choose their nominees. That process is left to the states. The New Hampshire Constitution empowers the legislature to determine the qualifications for those being elected to office (something in which I was closely involved when I chaired the committee with jurisdiction over state election law while a member of the state Senate). Pursuant to that power, state law makes clear that candidates must be registered members of the party on whose ballot line they wish to appear.
Virginia Republican Party leaders will gather later this month to decide whether to hold a presidential primary next year. Based on the past positions of the party’s State Central Committee, which will make the decision, a nominating convention seems more likely, party insiders said Wednesday. This is an ongoing struggle in the Republican Party of Virginia, but it takes on wider significance going into a presidential election year. The party’s right wing generally prefers conventions, figuring the dedicated folks willing to spend all Saturday in a political meeting will pick more conservative nominees. Others push for primaries, arguing that they help widen the party’s tent and juice the Republican ground game as GOP candidates traipse through the state and campaign volunteers collect voter information well ahead of general elections.
Nevada is keeping its caucuses for selecting presidential nominees, disappointing supporters of several Republican presidential contenders who had hoped to shift the early-voting state to a system of primaries. Caucuses are considered favorable to candidates who have a network of highly motivated activists, and in Nevada they are seen as especially favoring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul because of his family’s support in the state Republican party. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval backed legislation to change to a primary, but the bill never came up for a vote before the Legislature adjourned Monday night. It was the subject of frantic horse-trading and lobbying in the state capitol in Carson City until the final minutes of the session. “I would’ve liked to have seen that get through, but it didn’t,” he told The Associated Press. “I think that would’ve attracted candidates to our state. I don’t know if it will be the same if it is a caucus.”
National: With big field, unsettled primary calendar adds complexity to GOP race | Los Angeles Times
As the number of candidates seeking the Republican nomination nears a dozen, with more to come, the calendar of primaries has drawn increased attention, with party strategists trying to determine which contests will begin to winnow the field. Though the calendar remains unsettled, several Southern states, including Alabama and Arkansas, are looking to have an effect on the race by holding contests on the same date – creating a so-called SEC primary, named after the college sports Southeastern Conference. In Florida, Republicans have rallied around a winner-take-all primary that could be a jackpot in the race for delegates and potentially determine the electoral fate of the state’s former governor, Jeb Bush and its current Republican senator, Marco Rubio.
Nevada is keeping its caucuses for selecting presidential nominees, disappointing supporters of several Republican presidential contenders who had hoped to shift the early-voting state to a system of primaries. Caucuses are considered favorable to candidates who have a network of highly motivated activists, and in Nevada they are seen as especially favoring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul because of his family’s support in the state Republican party. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval backed legislation to change to a primary, but the bill never came up for a vote before the Legislature adjourned Monday night. It was the subject of frantic horse-trading and lobbying in the state capitol in Carson City until the final minutes of the session.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, will face a significant legal barrier if he attempts to run in next year’s New York primary while remaining unaffiliated with a party. A section of state election law commonly known as Wilson-Pakula prohibits candidates from appearing on the ballot in a party’s primary unless they are either enrolled members or receive the approval of the party’s committee.
Nevada: Republicans: Dump caucus, use early primary for presidential race | Las Vegas Review-Journal
Supporters of a Republican-backed bill to scrap Nevada’s presidential caucuses for a secret-ballot primary in February argued Tuesday that the move would expand participation in choosing the nation’s president. “Some people are very worried about upsetting the holidays and the inconvenience,” state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, told members of the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, which took no action on Senate Bill 421. “I personally don’t believe that the inconvenience of selecting the leader of the free world through a process that allows you to walk into a ballot box and cast your vote is too much of an inconvenience,” he said.
Editorials: The GOP’s worst nightmare and a pundit’s dream: A brokered convention in 2016 | Taegan Goddard/The Week
There are so many Republicans running for president, or thinking about running for president, that the Republican National Committee is having a hard time keeping track of them all. An official GOP online straw poll lists 36 potential candidates (and as Politico noted, that list actually missed at least two former governors who have said…
Sen. Bernie Sanders is a political independent, who proudly calls himself a socialist. As he declared his presidential candidacy Thursday, he pledged to run on the Democratic ticket. He could hit an early roadblock in New Hampshire — not with Hillary Clinton, but William Gardner, who has guarded the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary for four decades as Secretary of State. He said he isn’t sure whether Sanders meets the state’s requirement to be on the presidential ballot. “If they’re going to run in the primary, they have to be a registered member of the party,” Gardner told CNN. “Our declaration of candidacy form that they have to fill out says ‘I am a registered member of the party.'”
Nevada: Why Ron Paul’s big showing in Nevada may have made it harder for Rand Paul to do the same | The Washington Post
Republican presidential politics in Nevada — a key early-voting state — have been chaotic in recent years, thanks in large part to former congressman and two-time GOP White House contender Ron Paul. Now his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is running for the office — and the state GOP may be making moves to guarantee the Paul family no longer finds Nevada to be lucky terrain. Nevada Republicans long generally picked a presidential favorite via primaries. In 2008, they held caucuses instead. Many Ron Paul voters showed up that day — but even more showed up at the state party’s convention months later. Paul’s supporters who flooded the gathering, looking to elect their candidate’s followers to represent the state at the national GOP convention. The state didn’t reschedule another convention, instead opting to choose delegates via conference call.
Iowa: Forget the caucuses, Iowa is terrible at picking the eventual GOP presidential nominee | The Washington Post
Some states know how to pick them. Some don’t. When it comes to choosing the eventual Republican presidential nominee, Iowa, famous for its early caucus, and Louisiana have the worst track-record in every election since 1976. Both have picked losers four times over that period, according to a new analysis by Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog and a research associate at the University of Minnesota. Of course, being first (or among the first) means no candidate has momentum yet, while later primaries and caucuses can be swayed by building support for one over the rest.
Candidates wouldn’t have to die — but they would have to suffer medical hardship or live outside Kansas — in order to be removed from the ballot after winning a primary race under a bill approved Wednesday by the Kansas Senate. House Bill 2104 was drafted by Secretary of State Kris Kobach in response to Democrat Chad Taylor’s withdrawal from the race for U.S. Senate last fall. It originally would have allowed candidates off the ballot only if they died. Democrats pointed out this would mean a candidate who fell into a coma would be forced to remain on the ballot.
Trying to assist the presidential aspirations of Sen. Rand Paul, (R-Ky.), the Kentucky GOP has taken a bold move. Under current law, Paul could not run for both reelection and the Republican presidential nomination. In order to create a work-around to this problem, the state party has made a one-time only move from a primary to a caucus system. This innovative approach is troubling on a number of levels, but the biggest one is clearly that the state GOP would be promoting the confusing and relatively undemocratic caucus system. Paul isn’t the first candidate to face this particular problem. Numerous states ban candidates from seeking two offices at once. In 1960, Texas changed its law to help Lyndon Johnson (D) run for both the Senate and the presidency at one time, a change that helped Lloyd Bentsen (D) when he ran for the VP position in 1988. There have been other recent attempts to change these laws, including in Indiana for Gov. Mike Pence (R) and even in Arkansas for newly elected Sen. Tom Cotton (R). Some states have no barriers to seeking two offices at once, and candidates have taken advantage of these rules on the VP level – notably Joe Lieberman (D) in 2000 in Connecticut, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in 2012. Both lost their races, as did Bentsen, but kept their seats in Congress.
Legislators, at least most of them, decided this year that a deal is a deal. Despite numerous attempts to overturn it, lawmakers stood by last year’s deal to reform how political parties choose their nominees. They killed five bills to overturn, rework or delay a compromise that last year led backers of the Count My Vote ballot initiative to discard more than 100,000 petition signatures they had gathered to create a direct primary. The compromise, called SB54, allows candidates to qualify for a primary either by gathering enough signatures (similar to a direct primary), or through the old caucus-convention system. It also allows unaffiliated voters to vote in party primaries, which the Utah GOP previously banned in its primary.
Massachusetts cannot afford to have a presidential primary in 2016 under Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed budget, the state elections chief said Tuesday. In remarks to House and Senate budget writers, Secretary of State William Galvin flayed Baker’s proposed funding for elections in a year with no White House incumbent and an expected high voter turnout. “As you all know this country is scheduled to elect a new president next year. Apparently the governor only wants 49 states to vote, he doesn’t want this one, because he has drastically underfunded the elections budget,” said Galvin, a Brighton Democrat. Galvin’s office requested $8.1 million for elections, and Baker’s budget provides $5.7 million. Because fiscal year 2016 ends in June 2016, the outlay covers the costs of a presidential primary and his office ramping up for the fall elections. “I simply cannot run a credible election with those kind of numbers,” he said.
A bill that could throw a party candidates’ nomination back to delegates passed the Utah House Monday night, but its future in the Senate is unclear. Fifteen GOP House members who voted for the SB54 compromise bill last year went against the wishes of the Count My Vote leaders and supported an amended HB313. The bill passed 39-34, with two House members absent from the vote. In the meantime, UtahPolicy is told by Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans that he would be willing to accept even further amendments to HB313 to make it more acceptable to legislators. Evans met with GOP senators Tuesday afternoon in a closed caucus. (The Senate Republicans always hold closed caucuses.)
If Utah Republicans want to vote to select the party’s presidential nominee next year, they won’t be able to do it at the traditional ballot box. By a overwhelming majority, members of the Utah Republican Party Central Committee on Saturday approved a resolution to conduct next year’s GOP presidential primary during neighborhood caucus meetings. After about 30 minutes of spirited debate and discussion, members were finally able to come to a consensus that allows the party to consider its presidential nomination at the same time it chooses its delegates to county and state political conventions.
Loch Ness has its monster. The Pacific Northwest has Bigfoot. And elections have their own mythic creature, feared though seldom seen, who lurks large in the fevered imaginations of candidates, would-be pundits and some paranoid partisans. It’s the mischief-making crossover voter. In the popular telling, masses of cunning Democrats and Republicans stand ready and eager to wade into the opposition’s primary, itching to cast a calculated ballot for the weakest possible candidate, thence to be defeated in November. That sort of meddling is cited by opponents of so-called open primaries — which allow voters to cast ballots for whomever they please, regardless of party — as a reason to limit participation to those of their political affiliation. It’s also heard now and then as the reason why a certain candidate lost; last year, after the out-of-nowhere defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor in his Virginia primary, some credited (or blamed) the interference of crossover Democrats, who supposedly targeted the No. 2 House Republican. All of which is a lot of hooey.
Washington: Secretary of state says we need 2016 presidential primary that counts | Seattle Post Intelligencer
Washington needs a 2016 presidential primary that’s not merely a “beauty contest” but will count in allocating Democratic and Republican convention delegates, Secretary of State Kim Wyman argued Tuesday. Wyman is asking the Legislature to revive the primary and to give it clout. She will run into resistance. The state’s Democratic and Republican parties are long wedded to their presidential caucuses, which maximize influence of party activists and provide lists of names for fundraising. “My goal is to secure a voice for our Washington voters with a plan that assures a meaningful election where the results are used to allocate at least part of the national convention delegates from our state,” said Wyman, the state’s lone Republican statewide elected official. Wyman estimated that the primary would cost $11.5 million, the bulk of the money to reimburse costs incurred by the state’s 39 counties.
Vermont: Vermont looks at timing primary to New Hampshire’s, but would have fight on its hands | Daily Journal
Vermont is coveting its neighbor’s primary and New Hampshire is not amused. A Green Mountain State lawmaker is pushing to have Vermont tag along with early-voting New Hampshire, which is traditionally home to the nation’s first primary. The 2016 election will mark a century of New Hampshire running presidential primaries, though it’s really been a feature on the political landscape, bringing the Granite State a quadrennial burst of media attention, hotel and restaurant business and clout in presidential politics since 1952. New Hampshire state law calls for its primary to be held at least seven days before any similar election — caucuses like the ones in Iowa don’t count, since they aren’t primaries. That could be difficult to accomplish in the future if Vermont passes Senate Bill 76.
The Republican Party of Iowa received confirmation Thursday from the Republican National Committee that it can hold its traditional straw poll without violating the party’s new rules governing the primary season calendar, meaning one of the more colorful events of the nomination season is likely to go forward this August. Iowa’s Republican State Central Committee is scheduled to formally vote Saturday on the future of the straw poll, a carnival-like event that features barbeque and speeches from presidential candidates in the state that traditionally hosts the first nomination balloting. “The straw poll has absolutely no bearing on the official presidential nomination process,” RNC General Counsel John Ryder wrote in a memo to Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. “Indeed, it is exactly the nature of the Iowa straw poll as simply a fundraising mechanism at an entertainment event for Republican activists and their families, with absolutely no connection to any primary, caucuses or state convention, that protects the straw poll from the requirements of Rule 16(a)(1).” “It will require the candidates to move up their organizational efforts.”
As New Hampshire braces for another wave of White House hopefuls next year seeking votes in the first-in-the-nation nominating primary, much of the credit for the state’s hold on that position goes to one man: Secretary of State William Gardner. For the past four decades, Gardner has outmaneuvered states including Florida and Nevada to protect the front-runner spot mandated by New Hampshire law – and it has not always been easy. The state has steadily moved forward its primary, originally held in March. It shoe-horned the past two contests into January. Ask Gardner when the 2016 primary, which marks the 100th anniversary of the event, will be held and he smiles, careful not to limit his options. “I have never set the date and then changed it,” said Gardner, 66. “I wait until I feel it’s safe to do it and then I do it.” But the early January primaries of 2008 and 2012 were unpopular with Democratic and Republican officials, who worried that Americans were paying more attention to holiday parties than to candidates barnstorming New Hampshire and Iowa, whose citizens kick off nominating season with caucuses.
Some ideas offered to curb the partisan gridlock that envelops Congress involve changing how voters select the candidates who appear on the November general-election ballots. One proposal is to eliminate separate party primaries–registered Democrats voting for Democrats, and registered Republicans voting for Republicans—and adopt a so-called “Top-2” primary, under which candidates of all partisan stripes would run on a single ballot. Then the top two vote-getters in the primary would advance to the November election, regardless of their party preference. This system, the idea goes, would produce less ideologically rigid representatives because the entire electorate would be eligible to participate, and candidates would have an incentive to reach out to a larger swath of voters. It might also increase voter participation. There’s very limited evidence to determine its rate of success or failure.
On the gridiron, it takes a team to win, and some elected officials around the South are looking to band together rather than brawl over the 2016 presidential primaries. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is among those pushing a regional March 1, 2016 contest known as the “SEC Primary,” named after the Southeastern Conference and would include states like Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi and possibly Alabama and Louisiana. “As someone who went to the University of Georgia and lives in Athens and understands how powerful the Southeastern Conference is in football today, that is exactly what we want to be when it comes to presidential politics,” Kemp said. Although the state primaries would be held for each party, much of the focus would be on the large group of Republican presidential contenders expected to vie for the nomination.