In the democratic fabric of the United States, the scheduling of elections is a critical component that ensures the smooth operation of our representative government. The choice of election dates, historically rooted in considerations ranging from agricultural cycles to religious observances, has evolved to reflect the complexities of modern life. In California, as in many states, primary elections are traditionally scheduled on a Tuesday, a practice dating back to the 19th century designed to avoid clashing with the Sabbath and travel days for rural voters attending church. However, this tradition has increasingly come under scrutiny for its relevance and inclusivity in contemporary society.
The proposed “California Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2024” addresses these concerns by advocating for a change in the primary election date from Tuesday, March 5th, 2024, to Saturday, July 6th, 2024. This initiative is underpinned by the principle of maximizing voter participation and accessibility, reflecting a broader movement towards making voting more accessible to all citizens, irrespective of their personal and professional commitments.
Legal Foundations and Rationale:
Under the United States Constitution, states have the primary responsibility for setting the time, place, and manner of elections (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 4), a power that encompasses the scheduling of state and local elections. This decentralized approach allows for flexibility in accommodating the diverse needs and circumstances of the nation’s various regions. However, any changes to election dates must comply with federal laws, such as the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which mandates specific timelines for absentee ballots in federal elections to ensure that service members and citizens living abroad can participate in the democratic process.
The “California Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2024” is grounded in the legal tradition of state discretion over election scheduling, while also mindful of the need to harmonize with federal requirements. By proposing a shift to a Saturday, the Act seeks to address several contemporary challenges:
Enhanced Accessibility: Recognizing that weekday elections may pose barriers to participation for individuals with work or family obligations.
Increased Voter Turnout: Leveraging weekends, when many people have fewer commitments, potentially boosting the number of voters who can engage in the electoral process.
Disaster Recovery Considerations: Accounting for the extraordinary circumstances following significant natural disasters, such as the historic storms that struck California, necessitating a period for recovery and rebuilding that allows for full voter participation.
Alignment with Patriotic Celebrations: Scheduling the primary election close to the 4th of July aligns with national values and honors the sacrifices of veterans and military personnel, reinforcing the civic significance of voting as an act of patriotism.
Implementation and Compliance:
The Act mandates comprehensive measures to ensure a smooth transition to the new election date, including adjustments in voter registration deadlines, absentee ballot processes, and election official training programs. It underscores the importance of communication with the electorate to ensure awareness of the date change. Furthermore, the provision for the allocation of funds to support the implementation of the Act reflects an understanding of the logistical and financial considerations inherent in such a significant change.
The “California Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2024” embodies a thoughtful response to the evolving needs of California’s electorate. It represents a step towards more inclusive, accessible, and responsive electoral processes, grounded in the legal traditions and authorities that govern the scheduling of elections in the United States. Through this Act, California seeks to enhance the democratic process, ensuring that it reflects the values, sacrifices, and aspirations of all its citizens.
With all that said, here is what I would like to see in our proposed California Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2024 by our California State House, State Senate, Governor, and Secretary of State.
Bill No. XX-2024
An Act to Amend the Elections Code to Reschedule the California Primary Election Date
Section 1. Short Title
This Act may be cited as the “California Primary Election Rescheduling Act of 2024”.
Section 2. Findings
The Legislature finds and declares that:
(a) The State of California has experienced unprecedented and historic weather events, leading to widespread damage, loss of life, and adverse effects on the wellbeing of its citizens.
(b) Such circumstances have significantly impacted the ability of the electorate to participate fully in the democratic process, including but not limited to business owners, senior citizens, disabled individuals, students, educators, and homeless veterans.
(c) A well-informed electorate is fundamental to the democratic process, and adequate time for voter engagement with candidates and issues is essential for an informed vote.
(d) The scheduling of elections on a weekday may limit participation due to work obligations, whereas a weekend election can enhance accessibility and voter turnout.
(e) Honoring our veterans and military personnel, whose sacrifices ensure the freedoms including the right to vote, is paramount and aligning election dates close to national holidays celebrating our nation’s values promotes civic engagement and patriotism.
Section 3. Purpose
The purpose of this Act is to:
(a) Amend the California Elections Code to reschedule the Primary Election date from Tuesday, March 5th, 2024, to Saturday, July 6th, 2024, thereby facilitating greater voter participation and accessibility.
(b) Ensure the rescheduled election date does not conflict with federal election dates and maintains the integrity of the electoral process.
(c) Recognize and accommodate the needs of all Californians, especially those affected by recent adversities, in exercising their right to vote.
Section 4. Amendment to the Election Date
The California Elections Code is hereby amended to reschedule the California Primary Election from Tuesday, March 5th, 2024, to Saturday, July 6th, 2024.
Section 5. Implementation
(a) The Secretary of State shall take all necessary actions to implement the provisions of this Act, including but not limited to adjustments in voter registration deadlines, absentee ballot processes, and election official training programs.
(b) All local election authorities are directed to comply with the new primary election date and to undertake public awareness campaigns to inform the electorate of the change.
(c) The state shall allocate funds as necessary to support the implementation of this Act, ensuring that all polling places are accessible, equipped, and staffed to accommodate the expected increase in voter turnout.
Section 6. Severability
If any provision of this Act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
Section 7. Effective Date
This Act shall take effect immediately upon its passage, to allow ample time for preparation and public notification ahead of the rescheduled primary election date.