Michigan leaders vote to change presidential primary election date from March to February

Michigan to be one of first primaries in country, first in Midwest

Michigan will become one of the first primaries in the country and the first in the Midwest after a National Democratic Party approved sweeping changes to the primary election calendar for the 2024 election on Saturday.

The decision came just days after a bill was passed in the Michigan legislature and signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer the same week.

“We are a diverse state and I think that our electorate here is way more representative of urban, suburban and rural voters than the states that have traditionally,” said the bill’s author Senator Jeremy Moss just prior to the approval.

For months, state Democrats had been pushing to get Republicans on board. There was hope that with a two-thirds majority support, a change in the primary date could go into effect immediately.

Instead, Democrats went without bipartisan support. Under state law, the change can’t take effect for 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which means the legislature needs to end by Nov. 29, 2023.

For Republicans, moving the primary breaks their party’s rules and would cost the Michigan GOP 85% - 90% of their delegates at the next national convention, which would water down how much say they have in their nominee.

“Approving this bill would mean the 85% weakening of the voice of Michigan voters in determining their presidential nominee and this is the very definition of disenfranchisement,” said Senator Jim Runestad on the Senate floor during debates last week.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the Republican National Committee (RNC) whether to actually punish the MIGOP.

A similar instance happened with the Democrats and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) when the state moved up its primary against party bylaws and the delegates were re-awarded to the state.

There was no word from either the RNC or the MIGOP about potential fallout immediately following the vote.

The decision to move the primary was decades in the work for many Democrats like Rep. Debbie Dingell, who began working on the project with the late Senator Carl Levin.

“Senator Carl Levin is smiling down on us today,” Dingell said in a statement. “This is the culmination of a journey he began over 30 years ago, and a torch that I have been proud to carry on because I have always believed that Michigan picks presidents and that all roads to the White House go through the heartland.”

As of now, the 2024 primary calendar will be South Carolina on Feb. 3, New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb, 27.

The lineup forces New Hampshire from its first position and cuts out the Iowa caucus altogether, which both states had proudly held since 1972.

The calendar isn’t set in stone. The DNC will return in June to go over issues that might rise from moving the dates for Georgia and New Hampshire. That meeting is set for June 3.

Related reading: How Democrats’ early-voting order in 2024 compares with 2020

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.