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March 19, 2017

Move Pennsylvania's presidential primary to an earlier date, lawmaker proposes

A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to move the state's presidential primary to an earlier date to give it more electoral relevance.

State Rep. Keith Greiner, R-Lancaster, introduced a co-sponsorship memo Thursday for a potential bill that would shift the date from the fourth Tuesday of April to the third Tuesday of March.

Greiner said the lateness of the state's primary "diminishes its significance" for voters of both parties.

"Pennsylvania’s presidential primary should have a significant impact on the process of selecting presidential candidates, to reflect our standing as 'The Keystone State,'" Greiner wrote.

States chose the dates of their presidential primaries, but sometimes moving the date can mean losing delegates. Greiner said the March date wouldn't cost the state any delegates for either party.

The earlier date wouldn't change Pennsylvania's "winner-take-all" distribution of delegates either, Greiner said.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders was still mathematically alive in his campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination when Pennsylvania's primary was held. Ted Cruz and John Kasich were still trying to erase Donald Trump's lead in the Republican contest.

But oftentimes, the presumptive nominees for both parties have already been picked or hold nearly insurmountable leads by the time Pennsylvania's primary takes place.

In 2008, Clinton had a very slim chance at beating Barack Obama even if she won Pennsylvania's late-April primary (which she did).

In 2012, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvanian and eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney's strongest challenger, had already bowed out by the time the state's primary was held.

Greiner believes his upcoming legislation will solve the problem of Pennsylvania's relative irrelevance in presidential primaries.

"Achieving this goal is accomplished simply by changing the date of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary," Greiner wrote.