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California Elections Head Pushes For Earlier Primary

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu and California Secretary of S...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla pose for a photo with San Diego State University students, Feb. 3, 2016.

A bill in the California State Legislature would move the date of the state’s presidential primary elections. Last year’s vote came with the Republican and Democratic nominees already essentially decided.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the current June primary comes too late to have much influence in presidential races.

"Historically, when California votes for president in the primaries, it comes so late in the schedule that the nominees are pretty much determined by the time California voters weigh in," Padilla said.

The bill by Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara would change the primary to the third Tuesday in March. The governor could move it even further forward, so Californians vote third, behind traditional starters Iowa and New Hampshire.

The state has previously moved its primary forward in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. This change would be permanent, rather than a one-off, and — unlike in 2008 — it would move all primary elections, including state and local races.

National political parties in the past have tried to prevent states from jockeying forward, and it is unclear how they would react to the largest primary also becoming one of the earliest.

The measure would only change presidential election year primaries, starting in 2020, while leaving off-year elections in June.

An Assembly committee will consider the proposal next week.

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