This week, Stateline.org has been running a series looking at the relationship between states and localities in the current fiscal environment. Monday’s story paints a fairly bleak picture, noting that localities are going to have to learn “to do less with less” as funds traditionally available from the state begin to disappear.
A subsequent story looked at ways to rethink the state-local partnership – including efforts in Indiana and New York to reduce or eliminate local government functions entirely. Such changes would have a tremendous impact on election administration, which is still predominantly controlled by officials at the smallest levels of government. Consequently, you might expect local officials to fight any effort to relieve them of their traditional responsibilities.
And yet, a unique twist on this story is unfolding in South Carolina, where counties are fiercely resistingefforts by the state and political parties to force them to fund the 2012 Presidential preference primary. The Palmetto State has become, in the last few cycles, a key state in the nomination contest (especially on the Republican side) and this year the state is jockeying with other early states like Florida and Nevada along with traditional leaders Iowa and New Hampshire for a prime spot on the calendar. Yesterday, South Carolina announced that it would hold its primary on January 21 – ten days before Florida.
But the counties, who have neither interest in the presidential race nor any say in the schedule, are exerting what influence they do have to mitigate the costs. The counties know that presidential primaries are not immune from fiscal concerns – after all, Washington State outright cancelled theirs to save money – and they are determined not to get stuck with the bill.