LANSING, Mich. – Michigan House Democrats voted Tuesday to move the state's presidential primary to the fourth week of February and become a part of a new group of states slated to lead off the Democratic party's presidential primary starting next year.
The move, which was approved by the state Senate along party lines on Thursday, comes after a Democratic National Committee panel voted last month to approve a plan that would make Michigan the fifth state to hold its presidential primary in early 2024, and potentially, in years to come.
Democratic leaders in the state have said that the move will give Michigan an increased voice in national politics and drive more attention to the battleground state.
“Our population is a more reflective mix of suburban, urban and rural constituents than just about any other state that has had this early vote,” said Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Moss, the chair of the Senate's election committee. “We’re serious about putting Michigan at the forefront of presidential politics because then that puts us at the forefront of setting a national agenda.”
House Republicans argued Tuesday that the move could cost the state party nearly all of its delegates in 2024 after the Republican National Committee set an early primary calendar that does not include Michigan. Republican state Rep. Andrew Beeler, of Port Huron, said the move would “disenfranchise” Republican voters and was "basically spitting in the face of half of the state.”
“There’s a 90% loss of your delegates if your primary is held before March 1. So if this becomes law, no Republican candidate for president is going to come to Michigan to campaign,” Beeler said.
A new presidential primary calendar that was championed by President Joe Biden would strip Iowa’s caucus of its traditional post leading off the primary and replace it with South Carolina, which would open primary voting on Feb. 3. Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan would follow in that order with the majority of the rest of the country holding their primaries on Super Tuesday in early March.
As Democratic leaders in Michigan moved to match the DNC's plan, they also looked to garner Republican support for the move in hopes of receiving a two-thirds vote that was needed in the state Senate for the change to take immediate effect.
With the legislation passing along party lines, it now heads to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk and is not scheduled to take effect until 90 days after the end of the session — leaving questions about how it will be implemented for 2024. The Legislature typically adjourns in December but would need to finish by Nov. 29 for the bill to apply to the 2024 presidential primary.
The Democrats’ 2024 primary calendar could be moot if Biden opts to run for reelection, as expected. But no matter what happens in 2024, Moss said that the state “seized the opportunity that was presented to us” and will continue to do so to be a “key player in presidential politics.”