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Bill would change Delaware state primary date

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers hope to change Delaware’s state primary date to increase participation. 


A measure to move the primary has already been introduced ahead of the legislative session starting next week. 

The state primary election is currently in September. A bill sponsored by State Rep. Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington) seeks to move it to April to coincide with the presidential primary. 

In several recent elections, turnout dropped in the September primary compared to the April presidential primary.  Bolden says her bill could change this.

“It eliminates the confusion of voting, with different votes at different times,” Bolden said. “You know, we have the primary in September— we’re the latest primary in the whole United States.”

Only Louisiana had a later primary election last year, on Nov. 3, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Bolden says contributing to the confusion is the fact that the state primary date has been changed in the past. 

“It was on a Saturday, then it was put on a Tuesday, it was before Labor Day weekend. People are not participating— they’re getting ready to get their kids back to school,” she said. “It ends up being voter suppression to me.”

Bolden says changing the state primary date to coincide with the presidential primary would also save the state money, by not having to run two separate elections.

A similar bill introduced last year stalled in the Senate. Bolden says some lawmakers resist because they say they wouldn't have time to run a campaign while in session. She argues if lawmakers are doing their jobs right, constituents should already know them.

Gov. John Carney supports moving the state primary to the spring. If the bill passes, it would go into effect in 2024. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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