Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

An earlier Presidential primary could be coming to Pennsylvania

A sign that says "vote here" outside of the State College Borough building
Min Xian

Pennsylvania’s 2024 presidential primary is scheduled to take place April 23, but state Rep. Scott Conklin, who is majority chairman of the State Government Committee, said the committee is looking to move that earlier in the month.

Conklin said the committee will likely discuss the various dates being proposed on Oct. 3, with a goal of moving the legislation out of committee quickly. A bill from the House would change the primary to April 2. Another bill from the state Senate would move the presidential primary to the third Tuesday in March. But that, Conklin said, would push the date when candidates begin collecting petitions to get on the ballot to the day after Christmas.

“I honestly believe that we’re going to be able to come up with a compromise version before the vote, so when we do do that vote, it’ll be something that we’ll be able to pass and get to the governor’s desk in time to do it next year," said Conklin, a Democrat from Centre County.

The current primary date is on the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Changing the date would remove that conflict, and holding the primary earlier could give Pennsylvanians more weight in presidential primaries.

“By making Pennsylvania relevant, I’m hoping that we can pull out more people to vote.… Just get people out to vote, make them relevant in the game," Conklin said.

Conklin said he wants the legislation to get passed quickly, so counties have time to prepare for the elections.

If Pennsylvania holds its Presidential primary on April 2, it will join Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Independent voters in the primaries

Conklin said he's also hoping to get a bill passed that would allow non-affiliated voters to vote in the primaries.

“I think it makes the candidate more broad-based," he said. "They’re open to everyone’s ideas rather than just a select few.”

Currently in Pennsylvania, only voters registered with the Democratic or Republican parties can vote in those primaries. The idea of open primaries has the support of former Pennsylvania governorsfrom both parties.

But Conklin said it will be a "heavier lift" than holding the presidential primary earlier. “I know I’m reaching for the stars here, but one step at a time.”

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.