The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday May 25th

NC primaries could be earlier in 2016

The primary in N.C. will be one week after the primary in S.C. for the 2016 election.

State lawmakers voted in 2013 to move up North Carolina’s presidential primary from May to a week after South Carolina’s primary — meaning North Carolina’s primary could be held as early as February 2016.

“I don’t think too many months will pass before we start seeing some of these candidates start to come into North Carolina,” said Mitch Kokai, spokesman for the John Locke Foundation.

The presidential hopefuls might not technically be campaigning at that time, he said, but they could attend small meetings and conventions to raise their profile in the state.

“Candidates who are serious about making a go are going to have spend time winning over North Carolina in 2016,” Kokai said. “We’re going to be seeing more of the candidates.”

Yet state Board of Elections spokesman Josh Lawson said it’s not a guarantee that North Carolina will have an earlier primary date. If South Carolina’s primary is moved to a later date, he said it is possible that North Carolina could still have a May primary.

Because some uncertainty remains, Lawson said the state has not begun preparations for the campaigns, but South Carolina will be closely watched in the coming months.

“We’re confident that people are going to have the right information when the time comes,” he said.

Presidential primaries customarily start off in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. These states tend to receive the most campaigning from presidential candidates.

And now North Carolina could share some of that attention. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College, said the move is an endeavor on North Carolina’s part to play a bigger part in the nomination process.

“What some in the legislature would like to do is to bring more attention to North Carolina because, for the most part, when they hold their primaries late, the nomination process is pretty much done,” he said.

But Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, said the move might not yield the intended results.

“It’s certainly capable of overstatement,” said Cook, referring to the importance of moving up the primary to the overall nomination process.

“The top four priorities for anyone running for president are raising money, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then there’s an enormous gap before you get to any other state,” he said.

Moving up the primary could possibly place North Carolina under the scrutiny of the national parties.

Bitzer said the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention try to keep states from moving up their primaries in order to keep the presidential election cycle from dragging on. On the line is the number of delegates the national parties allow states to send to the national conventions.

“National parties will let South Carolina to be the first in the South, just by tradition,” he said. “The more likely is, if North Carolina moves theirs up, you may see other southern states try to do the same thing and that’s when the national parties might come in and say, ‘OK, you can do that but you’re going to get penalized.’”


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