Keith Greiner headshot

Keith Greiner

The 2020 race for president of the United States is well underway as news headlines are written every day about the latest rallies, speeches and political maneuvering across the nation. 

Debates are being scheduled by the Democrats to assist in helping voters choose from an ever-growing field of candidates. President Donald Trump continues to ramp up his re-election campaign.

Pennsylvania’s presidential primary is slated for Tuesday, April 28, 2020 — a year from today. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, Pennsylvania’s late primary date diminishes the value of your vote.

Our historical moniker as the Keystone State simply does not apply in presidential politics.

For Democrats, the party’s presidential nominee will likely already be chosen before Pennsylvania voters cast their primary ballots. This happened with the Republican Party in 2016, as now-President Trump amassed a tremendous lead before Pennsylvania’s primary over the contenders — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio — still in the race.

Once again, over half of the nation’s states — 31 in total — will have already cast their ballots in primary elections for their preferred presidential candidate. Pennsylvania’s vote again will be ceremonial only.

Looking back over history — with the exception of the Republican nominee in 1980 (Ronald Reagan) and the Democratic nominee in 2008 (Barack Obama) — our major parties have had presumptive nominees before Pennsylvanians had the opportunity to vote.

I do not want to see this happen again. It is time for Pennsylvania to reclaim its status as the Keystone State and give our voters a true voice in influencing the future of our nation through an earlier presidential primary election. That is why I have introduced House Bill 1183, which would move Pennsylvania’s presidential primary to the third Tuesday in March.

If this bill seems familiar, that’s because it is. This is the second time I have introduced legislation to move up Pennsylvania’s presidential primary. I did so in 2015 because I believed voters should have a meaningful say in determining their party’s presidential nominee. And my legislation is not the first to suggest this change; back in 2008, then-Gov. Ed Rendell backed a measure to move up Pennsylvania’s presidential primary. My colleague, state Rep. Harry Readshaw, a Democrat from Allegheny County who is co-sponsoring this legislation with me, has also led the charge on this issue for many years. Our legislation has garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats across the ideological spectrum. It is a truly bipartisan effort.

Current rules for the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, in their attempts to set guidelines for the process, prevent states from moving their primaries or caucuses earlier than certain dates. My legislation would keep the commonwealth within both the RNC’s and DNC’s prescriptions for presidential primaries.

Republican primaries operate on a “winner-take-all” basis, and Democratic primaries allocate delegates on a proportional basis. My legislation does not change that. Moving our primary to the third Tuesday in March would move Pennsylvania more firmly into the middle of the primary contests.

States across the nation are currently considering legislation like mine. They are jockeying to make their states politically relevant during presidential primaries. California, Arkansas and Washington have all moved their presidential primary elections up for 2020. State legislatures in Texas, Oregon and Delaware are considering legislation to shift their primary dates as well.

Moving the date of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary would likely be an economic driver for the commonwealth. Hotels, media advertising and all the downstream service industries would receive a great boost if Pennsylvania was in the thick of a political contest. Local businesses across the commonwealth also would benefit from increased sales in a contested presidential primary.

Disappointingly, political party leaders and pundits panned my legislation in 2015, but we are attempting to move forward regardless of what the “talking heads” or political elites might have to say. My legislation is simply about “we the people” and ensuring that we have a voice in choosing the next leader of the free world.

Pennsylvania is tied with Illinois in having the fifth-most Electoral College votes, and if 2016 was any indication, we know that the commonwealth can be the deciding factor in presidential elections. Our votes in the presidential primary ought to be no different.

I hope you will call your legislator and encourage him or her to support House Bill 1183 to give Pennsylvania voters a true voice in presidential politics.

State Rep. Keith J. Greiner is a Republican from Upper Leacock Township.

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