TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and John H. Adler which would move New Jersey’s presidential primary date to the last Tuesday in February in order to make New Jersey relevant in national elections was unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“In presidential primaries, New Jerseyans have been largely neglected due to our late primary date,” said Senator Vitale. “New Jersey should be a player on the national stage, and yet our voters are regularly disenfranchised because our primary happens to fall so late in the calendar year as to make us insignificant. We need to give our constituents greater input into each party’s nominee for the presidency, so that the officeholder truly represents the wishes of all of the people of this country.”
“By holding an earlier primary in New Jersey, candidates would be forced to address issues that are relevant to the people of the Garden State,” said Senator Adler. “As it stands, states like New Hampshire and Iowa get unequal access to primary candidates, while New Jersey’s concerns, regarding issues like clean oceans, suburban sprawl and equitable education funding, are put off. An earlier primary would give us unique policy opportunities and benefits that other early primary states already enjoy.”
The bill, a Senate Committee substitute for S-550, S-1297 and S-2402, would establish a separate presidential primary from New Jersey’s traditional primary date in June, and would set the date for the presidential primary in each presidential election year to the last Tuesday in February. The move would set New Jersey’s presidential primary near the front, and would give New Jersey’s voters greater voice in the outcome of the primary.
“We teach in Civics classes that every vote counts in a democracy, and yet, with New Jersey’s late primary, our votes become insignificant in the larger national picture,” said Senator Adler. “New Jersey’s voters need to be able to voice their opinions, and nominate the candidate who best reflects the needs of our State. We cannot allow a late primary to keep us out of the larger policy agenda discussion involved in running a candidate for president.”
According to the sponsors, the earlier presidential primary also has potential in spurring New Jersey’s economy. During the last presidential primary campaign, New Jersey voters made substantial donations to the national candidates, but in comparison to the supposedly “battleground” states, less money was spent in New Jersey on advertising and other expenses typically associated with running a national campaign.
“The bill estimates that the cost of a separate presidential primary in 2008 would be about $10 million,” said Senator Vitale. “The cost, however, is far outweighed by the economic benefits of having a competitive presidential primary play out in our State. Presidential candidates will now have to spend more time and campaign cash to secure the support of the people of New Jersey, and that will benefit small business owners in the State.”
The bill was approved by the Senate State Government Committee in May, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.