Massachusetts Legislator Hopes to Move State Primary Up to June to Encourage Voter Engagement

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Last year’s Sept. 4 primary election was about two weeks earlier than is typical for Massachusetts, moved up so that it would not conflict with Jewish holidays. But despite the alteration, it was still the sixth-latest primary election in the United States.

Needham’s Sen. Becca Rausch wants to change that.

The first-term legislator filed a bill that would move the state primary up to June, and she says that the switch would help voters become better engaged and would allow the general election to be more competitive—not to mention the convenience of avoiding the scheduling pitfalls that come in September.

“The primary date right now is very challenging,” Rausch told the State House News Service. “I think we saw those reasons pop up in 2018 in a pretty obvious way.”

Under current state law, the state primary is supposed to be held the seventh Tuesday before biennial general elections, usually falling halfway through September. As a result, the key weeks of campaigning fall over the summer or right at the start of the school year. Rausch described it as “not generally a time when people are thinking about politics.”

Rausch’s bill would set the regular state primary on the second Tuesday in June, a time of year she believes will not damage any specific candidate’s chances and would allow party nominees more time to contrast from one another ahead of the November election.

“People deserve to make informed choices,” she said. “Everyone’s vote is their voice in our representative government. I think moving our primary date enhances people’s abilities to use their voices through the voting process in a more significant way.”

The bill—the very first one Rausch filed as a new legislator—came as part of a package of proposed elections reforms. She also filed legislation to make absentee ballots easier to acquire and to implement a ranked-choice voting system similar to that in place in Maine.

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