Campaigns & Elections

PA House committee advances bills to change 2024 primary date

Both bills await further action by the chamber.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, author of the House bill to move the 2024 primary date

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, author of the House bill to move the 2024 primary date Commonwealth Media Services

Pennsylvania lawmakers on Tuesday moved ahead with tentative plans to change the date of the state’s 2024 presidential primary election.

The House State Government Committee voted 13-12 to advance legislation that would move next year’s primary election date from April 23 to April 2. 

Officials at the state and local levels have been discussing plans to move the 2024 primary from its current date of April 23, which would conflict with the Jewish holiday of Passover. Proponents of changing the date also say moving it earlier in the year could strengthen Pennsylvania’s voice in the presidential primary process. 

Democratic state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, the prime sponsor of House Bill 1634 – which would move the 2024 presidential primary to April 2 – acknowledged that moving the primary date earlier in the year, regardless of the date, will likely present challenges for election administrators. However, Kenyatta said, his bill – in contrast to another bill that would move the primary even earlier – is the lesser of two evils. 

Senate Bill 224, which could move the election to March 19, was also considered by the committee on Tuesday. It was initially rejected, though the committee reconvened later in the day to approve the bill by a 13-12 vote

“I know that we’ve all received feedback … from our county commissioners about the impact of moving the primary, but I think, pretty universally, what has been shared by county commissioners is that April 2 is the least disruptive day in a list of options that will provide some tension for our county commissioners to effectively execute the election,” Kenyatta said during debate on his bill, HB 1634. 

Moving the state’s primary date to April 2 would put the commonwealth in line with other states, including Connecticut, New York and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Republicans on the committee expressed reluctance toward the idea of changing the primary date. 

“I’m not saying that this isn’t a worthy effort, but it should have been done long before now and we are really putting the counties in a very tough position,” said state Rep. Dawn Keefer, who chairs the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus.

GOP state Rep. Brad Roae, the minority chair of the committee, agreed. “It’s just too late to be doing this,” Roae said. “It’s not fair to the counties to be changing things at the last minute like this. All the different polling sites that are already reserved, that are already rented out for other functions on the day we want to move the primary to – it's just not feasible to do it.”

Democratic state Rep. Ben Waxman said he has faith in election administrators to carry out an altered election date. “Passover is one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. It is an incredibly important holiday. It shouldn’t be thrown aside as though it doesn’t matter to our community,” Waxman said in committee on Tuesday.

After being advanced by the House State Government Committee on Tuesday, both HB 1634 and SB 224 await further action by the House. 

Spotlight PA reported Tuesday afternoon that lawmakers could consider a voter ID amendment, as well as other proposed changes, as early as Wednesday.