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Michigan House open to considering presidential primary legislation

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Some Michigan legislators are pushing for moving the state's primaries earlier.

Some Michigan lawmakers are eying a change to the state’s primary election dates as the current legislative session enters its final days.

This week, the Michigan Senate passed a bill to move the state’s presidential primary up from March to February.

Sponsor Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) said Michigan should have more influence in choosing presidential nominees.

“Michiganders truly reflect the United States more so than either of the coasts and some of the much smaller states,” he told reporters after the vote.

It comes amid discussions taking place at the national level within the Democratic Party to re-arrange its primary schedule.

Friday afternoon, the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed to waivers allowing five states, including Michigan, to move up their presidential primary elections. The others were South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada, and Georgia. The shift would still need to be approved by the party's full committee.

Under the change, Michigan would be allowed to hold its election during the 2024 election cycle on February 27, effectively putting it fifth if each state qualifies for their waivers.

Notably, that’s later than the second Tuesday in February date mentioned in Schmidt’s bill.

The lawmaker said it’s not about helping either major party but about Michigan having more say.

"The voters of Michigan would see these candidates earlier, get a much better feel for who they are and hopefully those candidates, either side of the aisle, will respond to what they see here in Michigan and even our fellow Great Lakes states,” he said.

The Michigan Republican Party also appears to support moving up the election date.

"Michigan should have a very significant say in electing the next Republican President of the United States,” MI GOP chair Ron Weiser said in a statement Thursday night.

The bill now heads to the state House, where Representative Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Twp) chairs the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

She said her priorities are separate bills currently before the Senate that would move up Michigan’s August primary to June.

“The most important date that the local clerks want changed is to move the August primary to June. That’s what I hear most about and that’s what their greatest concern is, is that we should be looking at an election that can really make a difference,” Bollin said Wednesday.

Republican Senate communications did not respond to an interview request to discuss whether that chamber would be amenable to passing that legislation as part of a deal. It advanced out of committee in October.

Bollin said the House hasn’t looked at moving the presidential primary date yet, but she’s open to a deal “provided that we’re also looking at moving the August primary date to June.”

“I think we have worked hard to come together to put forth good policy and I’d like to see them get over the finish line in the Senate,” she said.

Time is running out for either effort to get to the governor’s desk before the end of the year. The House calendar shows only three session days remaining until the next Legislature takes over next year.

Both chambers are scheduled to convene next on Tuesday.