If Pa. is truly a ‘swing state,’ then place primary earlier on calendar

Pennsylvania usually is regarded as a crucial “swing state” in presidential elections. The electoral math dictates that a Democrat is highly unlikely to win the presidency without carrying Pennsylvania, making it vital for Democrats and an attractive target for Republicans.

Remarkably, though, most state-level politicians seem content to allow the state to be largely irrelevant in presidential primaries by conducting the elections long after other states have determined the nominees.

That’s likely to be the case in 2016 under the current calendar. The primary is scheduled for the fourth Tuesday of April. By then the GOP field is likely to be culled from more than a dozen to the nominee, and front-running Democrat Hillary Clinton is likely to have completed at least a couple of victory laps.

The Legislature should take seriously a bill by Rep. Keith Greiner, a Lancaster County Republican, to move the primary to March 15. Many candidates still will be in play then, and it is the same day as primaries scheduled in three other big states – Florida, Illinois and Missouri.

The “SEC primary” (named for college sports’ Southeastern Conference) will take place March 1 across many Southern states. That would make March 15 the second most important group of primaries on the schedule. It’s a good idea to make the state influential in selecting nominees for the sake of political influence when the next president takes office.

The problem is that political leaders of both parties don’t like the idea of an earlier primary, which they find inconvenient for politicians.

Democratic Chairman Jim Burn understandably doesn’t want to make the state a high-profile platform for the more hotly contested Republican primary. But he and Republican Chairman Rob Gleason both told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they were worried about logistical issues for non-presidential candidates resulting from an earlier primary.

Elections aren’t party property, however, even when they are conducted to nominate the parties’ candidates. They are paid for by the broad public, and scheduling should be in the broad public interest. That interest is in ensuring a prominent role for Pennsylvania in selecting the next president – including the nominees.

– The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens’ Voice