(The Center Square) – The House State Government Committee advanced a proposal to change the date of Pennsylvania’s 2024 presidential primary election.
Proponents of the bills say its current schedule – the fourth Tuesday in April – takes place too late in the process to be relevant and conflicts with the Jewish holiday of Passover in 2024.
But critics say doing so at this point does not give election officials enough time to properly prepare.
Under existing law, Pennsylvania’s 2024 primary election would take place on April 23. House Bill 1634 would move it to the first Tuesday in April. It was passed on Tuesday by a narrow margin.
Its companion, Senate Bill 224, which sought to move the date to the third Tuesday in March, was recently passed by a majority in the Senate, but failed to get enough votes to advance through the House committee.
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, the bill’s sponsor, said he thinks people recognize that Pennsylvania is at the center of the political universe and “if you want to win a national election in the United States of America, you have to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
“Right now,” he said, “our presidential primary date, not only conflicts with a major religious holiday, but additionally disadvantages the voters of the commonwealth in terms of being able to weigh in in a substantive way throughout the presidential primary process.”
He said moving the primary to April 2 would also align the state with others in the region who weigh in on that date.
Minority Chairman Brad Roae, R-Meadville, expressed concerns about conflicts with polling places, such as schools and churches, and the timeframe for election officials to organize and prepare could create chaos.
Any date chosen may conflict with a holiday at some point, he added.
Proponents said they expect growing pains.
“With change comes discomfort,” said Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Paoli. She blamed social media or false news reports for stoking the fire.
“Our job is not to be fearful, but to lead Pennsylvania to a better place…to move this state forward,” she said.
Majority Chairman Rep. Scott Conklin, D-State College, said they have been in contact with school districts regarding the date changes.
“We are committed to making it work no matter what date we use, other than the later primary date,” he said.