A story in August 3's Palm Beach Post illustrates a challenge many states face in 2012: how to harmonize the election calendar with the Presidential primary season.
This is an area where regional pride and politics has a big impact on the schedule. As we saw in 2008, many states were willing to move their primaries as far forward as they could in order to maximize their impact on the nomination process. While a few states like Arizona are trying to push to the front of the line in 2012, elsewhere this process is reversing - partly due to the fact that there is likely to be a nomination contest in only one party, partly because of national party pressure to protect traditional early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and partly because many states simply cannot afford to fund another election on the calendar.
All of this movement is a challenge to state and local election officials, who inevitably must find ways to fit the Presidential primary both into the existing calendar and the existing budget. Add to this the new federal requirement that military and overseas ballots go out at least 45 days before Election Day and you can appreciate the trepidation with which many states and localities view the primary scheduling dance in their state legislatures. [You have to wonder how many states are envying their counterparts in Washington State, who simply canceled their 2012 presidential primary earlier this year.]
The next few months will be crucial for those states that have yet to officially settle on a primary date - and even more so for those election officials who must set the wheels in motion for a well-run vote on whatever day becomes Election Day.
Confused - or just curious - about the 2012 primary calendar? Bookmark the indispensable FrontloadingHQ by Davidson professor Josh Putnam.