Campaigns & Elections

PA Senate advances plan to move 2024 presidential primary

A bill approved by the chamber would move the primary to March 19.

A voter casts their ballot in Luzerne County in May 2023.

A voter casts their ballot in Luzerne County in May 2023. Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, Pennsylvania lawmakers on Wednesday advanced legislation that would move the state’s 2024 presidential primary election from April to March – a decision that would help avoid a conflict with Passover, while also giving the state a little more influence during presidential primaries. 

Lawmakers in the state Senate voted 45-2 to approve Senate Bill 224, which officially would move next year’s presidential primary election from April 23 to March 19 if signed into law.

Proponents of the legislation said that the bill was developed to carefully avoid interfering with the Jewish holiday, which spans from April 22-30. 

“We have crafted it and re-crafted it to ensure that we would avoid Christmas, we would avoid Passover, we would avoid Easter. As has been previously indicated, everyone agrees that we need to move the current date for next year so that it does not conflict with Passover,” said state Sen. David Argall, a Republican from Schuylkill County who sponsored the bill. 

State Sen. Judy Schwank, a Democrat from Berks County who co-chairs the Pennsylvania Jewish Legislative Caucus, stressed that sticking to the current date could create a real conflict, as many Jewish houses of worship – which often serve as polling places – will be hosting holiday services on the current election date.

“The holiday actually begins the night before. That’s when the first seder, that first dinner … actually occurs, but the second full day is the day when many observant Jews will be going to their congregations for services. That’s where we face a problem,” Schwank said.

In addition to avoiding the conflict with Passover, Argall added that the date change would “give Pennsylvanians, for the first time in a long time, a much greater voice during this important process.”Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward agreed. In a speech on the Senate floor, Ward said the date currently prescribed in law – the fourth Tuesday of April – is too late in the process. 

“When we’re nominating candidates, our voices are muted. Our primary is so late – so many other states have already voted – that we don’t matter. So here we are, the fifth-most registered voters in the country, not having input into who the candidates are for our parties,” Ward said.

“This bill gives Pennsylvania citizens a voice at the beginning of the process,” she added. 

The bill is expected to be referred to the House State Government Committee next, which will need to advance the bill prior to a vote by the full House. 

Democratic state Rep. Scott Conklin, who chairs the House State Government Committee, told WPSU that the committee may discuss several date changes – including a separate bill to move the primary to April 2 – at an Oct. 3. committee meeting.