California moves their primary date

US ‘primaries and caucuses’ are a fairly common place staple of exam questions – what are the pros and cons, should it be reformed, and so on. They also form a part of wider questions about elections and democracy. One of the common criticisms levelled at the process is that, for states with later primaries, their voice becomes an irrelevance. If a candidate can win enough delegates before the Californian primary, then what is the point of even really campaigning there? To remedy this, California has announced it plans to move it’s primary up to March for the 2020 election campaign.

“The Golden State will no longer be relegated to last place in the presidential nominating process,” – Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State

For students, the impact of this is hugely useful when analysing elections.

  • Why did they feel the need to move it? Because the role of California and it’s vast population in the primary process to nominate presidential candidates had become less relevant
  • Why change it? Two key reasons – to give California more clout in this process, but also to try and help shape the national debate on issues that are key to California. Candidates will have to focus on these issues more if California becomes important.
  • What does this say about the primaries system? Arguably that they are unfair to states depending on when their primary is meaning each state is not equally valued in the process – this is a hugely important argument for Unit 4 Federalism as well as Unit 3 elections. It is also yet more evidence of frontloading of primaries, which has the impact of extending the presidential race. This has an impact on the money and campaign logistics necessary to win in such a race.
  • Will it make a difference? Politico suggests that California has tried this before to little effect; but only time will tell! It might encourage yet more states to move their own primaries earlier too.
  • Anything else? California produces approximately $2.5tn/$18tn of the US GDP, and has a population of 39 million. For it to feel undervalued suggests a significant issue in the election system. Equally, whilst Trump lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes, California voted for Clinton by a margin of about 4 million; this helps to explain Trump’s victory (and problems with the Electoral College).

Click here for the Politico story