California considers advancing primary date to strengthen state's influence

Published 13.09.2017 00:40

California state lawmakers are set to vote on a plan that would bring forward the date it holds its presidential primary vote, a move that could jolt national politics.

The proposal would shift the date to the first Tuesday in March from June in order to "give Californians a louder voice," according to a statement by its two principal backers, state senator Ricardo Lara and assembly member Kevin Mullin. June is at the end of the primary season, the period when voters choose presidential candidates for each political party.

This late date means that California, despite being the most populous U.S. state, an economic powerhouse and carrying a massive haul of delegates, has relatively little influence in the national race. The state is often relegated to being a source of fundraising. Last year only the tiny District of Columbia - the US capital - held a later primary election.

Democratic and Republican California lawmakers support the measure, according to Lara spokesman Michael Soller.

"California is leading the nation on creating jobs, fighting pollution and protecting the rights of all who live here, and our voters need to be front and center in the presidential election," said Lara.

The move would likely boost the importance of Californian politicians like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Senator Kamala Harris "should they run" for president, said Louis DeSipio, a political science professor at the University of California at Irvine.

California has selectively shifted its primary date in the past, notably in 2008 when it was held in February, resulting in the highest voter turnout since 1980. But more than 20 other states advanced their contests in response, and Hillary Clinton's victory in California's Democratic primary did not prevent Barack Obama from being the eventual winner.

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