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To boost Pennsylvania’s election power, lawmaker hopes to change 2028 primary date

Pennsylvania voters take to the polls in Harrisburg on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022.
Amanda Berg / For Spotlight PA
Pennsylvania voters take to the polls in Harrisburg on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022.

By the time Pennsylvanians get to vote in the 2024 primary, more than half of the states and territories will have had their voices heard.

Pennsylvania carries a lot of electoral votes and routinely sways the general election. But that late primary often makes it insignificant when it comes to selecting a party nominee.

While the attempts to move the 2024 primary are over, Rep. Keith Greiner, R-Lancaster, is trying to move the 2028 primary up.

“We are the Keystone State and Pennsylvania needs to have greater leverage in deciding who the presidential nominees are,” he said.

The legislation would move the primary date from the fourth Tuesday of April to the third Tuesday of March. This would make the date March 21 for 2028.

The 2028 date would also not conflict with religious holidays such as Passover, which was a big motive for changing the 2024 primary date.

There have been numerous instances where Pennsylvania’s late primary has contrasted with that of the nation.

In 1980, George H.W. Bush won the Pennsylvania primary but Ronald Reagan won the national nomination and, ultimately, the presidency.

In 2008, a similar event happened with Hillary Clinton beating Barack Obama for the nomination. Obama had already earned a significant amount of delegates and was primed for the nomination.

“We don’t decide and we haven’t and a lot of states have moved their primaries up and I think we should be,” he said.

Greiner says the legislation is nonpartisan and he has introduced it multiple times – frequently working with former Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny – but said the attitude toward changing the date has changed significantly.

“I do think there’s more of an appetite,” he said. “I think there’s more of an openness.”

Efforts to move the 2024 primary were bipartisan and had bills voted out of each chamber, but ultimately failed as the time until the primary shortened.

While his proposal to shift the 2024 primary failed, Greiner believes this bill will pass before 2028.

“We didn’t get it done this time,” he said. “It’s like a fullback on a football team. I’m gonna keep pushing forward. Keep the legs moving and seeing whether we can’t get it done. Because sometimes things take five, six sessions.”