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Nevada Getting An Early Jump On 2016 Primary Hijinks

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The months before the presidential primary season are typically replete with stories about the early primary states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida -- getting into a bunch of petty battles over who is leapfrogging who and what state gets to go first and when. Last year, things got so bad that New Hampshire officials were mulling pushing their primary back to Dec. 6, 2011, and someday soon we may realistically contemplate having primaries sometime around Halloween the year before the election.

But with the 2012 election now long in the books, we can at least enjoy a break from these stories of calendar gamesmanship -- oh, wait, what's that, Associated Press reporter Sandra Chereb?

What the what, now? Well, according to the AP, this the what: The Nevada Senate has taken up debate on a bill -- SB212 -- that would create an early January primary, the "main goal" of the measure is to "allow military personnel serving overseas an opportunity to participate in the presidential nomination process."

Under the bill, the primary election would be held the second-to-last Tuesday in January, and apply not only to presidential races but state races as well. If the law had been in place last year, Nevada’s primary would have been held Jan. 24, instead of June 12.

In the case of the 2016 election cycle, that would mean the Nevada primary would be held Jan. 19. Naturally, should this pass, it's going to muck the calendar for everyone else. For those details, we turn to the master sherpa of the primary process, Josh Putnam at Frontloading HQ, who is probably just as flabbergasted that he has to write about early primary reindeer games in March 2013 as I am.

Putnam says that if Nevada passes SB212, the "window" in which the other early primary states can hold their contests gets compressed, and the vagaries of each state's rules has him speculating that South Carolina's primary could get moved up to Jan. 16, New Hampshire's primary to Jan. 5, and Iowa would get stuck teetering on the edge of the New Year. "Realistically," says Putnam, "a Saturday, Jan. 2 caucus would be the only workable, post-New Years date left (a possibility FHQ raised recently)."

But isn't Nevada's move going to violate somebody's rules, Josh?

This bill, if passed, would also be a violation of the national party rules. There are no Democratic Party rules for the 2016 cycle yet, but if the rules from the previous cycle carryover, then Nevada would lose half of its delegates. Things on the Republican side, where there are 2016 rules, would be more interesting. Nevada would be subject to the super penalty (a reduction to nine delegates plus the three RNC members from the state) in the RNC rules if it held the only January contest and (importantly) was not forced to that date by another state encroaching on the carve-out states' calendar territory. If, however, a state like Florida does flaunt the rules on timing and forces the carve-out states to an earlier date outside of the February window called for in the RNC rules, Nevada would not be subject to the penalty. The language of the rule does not address whether a carve-out state takes the initiative to move to a position before February before being provoked.

Oy. Putnam reckons that Nevada's decision to plant its flag on the penultimate Tuesday of January is a preemptive move, designed to hold off Florida officials from pushing their primary up the calendar. But Nevada's shifting may not end there. Every election cycle, there are states that want to jump into the January sweet-spot on the primary calendar, rightly recognizing that this is the peak period of time in which the national media is both paying attention and spending money, covering the primary process. As Putnam points out, should another Western state get a bee in the bonnet about jumping into January's fray, Nevada's secretary of state could push the state's contest as early as Jan. 2, which will inevitably lead to Iowa and New Hampshire going even earlier.

Just to be on the safe side, I guess everyone should just try to figure out who you want to vote for in 2016 right now, because who knows? Maybe the 2016 primaries will start this summer or something. Gah.

Nevada Bill Would Create January Presidential Primary [Frontloading HQ]

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