SALEM — Oregon's secretary of state is asking lawmakers to move Oregon's presidential election primary two months forward to March, so Oregonians can have a greater say on who the nominees will be.
In a letter to Oregon's political leaders, Dennis Richardson, a former state represenative from Central Point who is also Oregon's chief elections officer, asked for support in urging the state Legislature to change the date.
The request raises the possibility that all three states on America's West Coast could have presidential primaries in March 2020, which would generate more national attention, and more visits by candidates wooing voters.
"Both California and Washington are considering legislation to move their presidential primaries to March," Richardson wrote. "I believe that Oregon should do the same in the 2018 session."
The California Legislature might move America's most populous state's presidential primary this week to what's known as Super Tuesday, a day when several states hold primaries. Washington state lawmakers have also considered moving up the primary in that state, and it is advocated by Washington's secretary of state.
"Currently, only a handful of states vote for president after Oregon's May primary," Richardson wrote on Wednesday to Gov. Kate Brown and Republican and Democratic legislative leaders. "With our late primary date, both math and momentum usually prevent Oregonians from having a meaningful say in selecting presidential nominees."
Richardson said a change could also give Oregonians more access to campaigning candidates, who frequently visit states that have early primaries, like Iowa and New Hampshire.
On May 17, 2016, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary in Oregon. Donald Trump won the Republican one.
Jonathan Lockwood, spokesman for the Oregon state Senate Republican caucus, said of Richardson's proposal: "We are excited about being a greater part of the national presidential conversation and we are reviewing what this means for Oregonians in terms of cost-benefit."
The financial cost to Oregon under Richardson's proposal would be holding only a presidential primary in March. Candidates for other offices could continue to be nominated in May, to avoid interference in the 2020 legislative session, he said. Lawmakers would presumably be more focused on passing bills than campaigning during the legislative session, which in even years generally starts in February and runs through early March.
California held its last presidential primary on June 7, 2016. A bill in that state's Legislature would move the primary to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, which is Super Tuesday.
"A state as populous and diverse as California should not be an afterthought," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in April. "Moving up the California primary in 2020 makes sense and will give California voters a more significant role."
The Washington state Legislature is currently not in session, but Secretary of State Kim Wyman has been clear on wanting to move the primary date forward from late May to March from as well.