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Push is on for earlier Pa. primary

Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Senate’s state government committee advanced legislation Wednesday that could significantly impact the state’s presidential primary election.

Sen. Dave Argall, following in the footsteps of Sen. John Gordner last session, reintroduced a bill earlier this year aimed at reshaping the primary calendar to grant Pennsylvania voters a more influential role in the selection of presidential candidates.

Under the current law, Pennsylvania’s presidential primary is held on the fourth Tuesday of April, a date Argall and other legislators contend often leaves the state’s voters with minimal influence on the ultimate nomination outcomes.

Argall’s proposal seeks to shift the date to the third Tuesday of March with the aim of ensuring the voice of Pennsylvania residents is more distinctly heard during presidential elections.

“We took an important step today to move this legislation forward with bipartisan support,” Argall said. “I introduced this bill to give Pennsylvania voters a greater say in selecting their preferred candidate for President of the United States. As the fifth largest state in the country, we should have a stronger role in this election. In most presidential elections, the outcome is largely decided before our voters have a chance to cast their vote.”

The full Senate will now consider the bill. The proposed change would take effect for the 2024 presidential primary, aligning Pennsylvania’s primary date with states like Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

Argall, however, is not the sole voice advocating for change. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta has introduced a similar bill in the House, proposing an alternate date for the primary. Kenyatta’s bill, in contrast, suggests moving the primary date to April 2 in 2024. Kenyatta said an April date provides a more family-friendly and inclusive timeline, as it commences after the holiday season.

“The democratic process is one of the cornerstones of our nation, and it’s our duty to ensure that the voices of all Pennsylvanians are heard,” said state Rep. Scott Conklin, majority chair of the House state government committee. “I am pleased to support the Kenyatta bill, which thoughtfully moves the presidential primary to April 2. This not only gives Pennsylvanians a greater voice in national politics but also starts the petition process on Jan. 2, after the holiday season, allowing for a more family-friendly and inclusive timeline.”

The existing April 23, 2024, primary date, Kenyatta said, coincides with the major Jewish holiday of Passover, prompting a push for a more inclusive schedule that respects the religious observances of diverse communities.

“We need to be sure that Jewish people are not disenfranchised due to the current date conflicting with Passover,” Argall said.