The Lead

Pa. House vote to reconsider rejected bill keeps hope alive for an early presidential primary

By: - October 16, 2023 5:45 pm

A sign directs voters in State College, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Capital-Star photo)

Hope for an early presidential primary in Pennsylvania that avoids a conflict with the Jewish Passover holiday remained alive Monday, after the state House voted to reconsider a bill it rejected earlier this month.

House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) called for a vote to reconsider Senate legislation that would set March 19, 2024, as the date of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary. The current primary date is April 23.

The motion, which passed along party lines, does not reverse the House’s earlier decision, but keeps the matter alive for a future vote. A spokesperson for Bradford said there was no vote currently planned.

Lawmakers have been considering competing proposals to move the primary since last month. An earlier primary would give Pennsylvania voters more say in choosing presidential nominees, which are usually settled by the state’s usual presidential primary in late April.

Moving the primary would also avoid having the election fall during Passover, when many Jewish people who observe the holiday do not drive, write or use electronics.

The House on Oct. 5 rejected the Senate’s March 19 proposal, which had been amended to include a voter ID provision, with a 26-177 vote. But it passed House Bill 1634, to set April 2, 2024, as the primary date, with a 102-100 vote along party lines. 

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman wrote in a letter to Bradford last week that the Republican-controlled Senate would not consider April 2 because that would conflict with preparations for Easter in churches that are used as polling places.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania also told lawmakers earlier this month that it was too late to change the primary date, given the work county election officials would need to do to prepare for an earlier election.

“Given concerns voiced by counties, churches and schools, time is of the essence for you to make a decision on whether the House will also close the discussion or revert to the prior printer’s number and send Senate Bill 224 to the governor’s desk,” Pittman said.

In brief remarks on the chamber floor on Monday, House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) urged a “no” vote on the motion to reconsider the March 19, bill. 

“I think it would be best to simply let a dead bill be dead,” Cutler said. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.