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Lawmakers aim to move California's presidential primary right behind Iowa and New Hampshire

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers and the state's chief elections officer announced a new effort on Tuesday to move the state's 2020 primary up by three months, even giving the governor power to accelerate the timeline in hopes of closely following elections in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"A state as populous and diverse as California should not be an afterthought," Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement supporting Senate Bill 568.

The bill's author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), plans to bring the proposal to a state Senate committee hearing next week. It is the second bill introduced in the Legislature this year that would move California's presidential primary from June to the third Tuesday in March.

Unlike the first bill, though, Lara's effort would allow the governor to move the state's primary even earlier if other states charge ahead of California.

"By holding our primary earlier, we will ensure that issues important to Californians are prioritized by presidential candidates from all political parties," Padilla said.

The new efforts would also move the state's congressional and legislative primaries to March from their traditional spot in June. California lawmakers first moved the presidential primary to March in 1996. In 2008, the presidential primary was held in February, and voter turnout was higher than it had been for almost three decades.

In 2012, lawmakers returned the vote to June for all primaries after complaints about the cost of standalone presidential primaries and the state's relatively limited impact in picking the eventual Democratic and Republican nominees.

While California was often skipped by presidential candidates in the years of the early primary, supporters say the state's new focus on absentee voting could encourage the candidates to come west in search of millions of potential votes to be cast in the weeks before election day.

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