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Senate votes to move Florida presidential primary to March 15, 2016

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The Florida Senate today unanimously approved a bill that will move the state’s presidential primary moves from January to March 15, 2016.

This is significant because that date is the first day the state can conduct, if it chooses as expected, a primary with a winner-take-all prize for the victor. New rules announced by the Republican National Committee require the awarding of convention delegates based upon the percentage of votes earned for any primaries held between March 1 and March 14, also known as proportional voting.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Naples Republican Garrett Richter, the Senate’s Ethics & Elections chairman. He said the change “makes Florida meaningful in the presidential primary elections.”

In order to be meaningful or relevant, the GOP-led Legislature the past two election cycles has moved the presidential primary up to January. All that ended up doing was making the four states chosen by the Republican Party as having been the first in the nation — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — move up their elections earlier.

But the RNC decided they were tired of playing those games this year, and in effect implemented a death penalty if Florida dared to move up the line this time around. The new rules say that any state that attempts to hold its nominating contest in February would have their number of delegates to the convention slashed to just nine people or, in the case of smaller states, one-third of their delegation — whichever number was smaller. That means Florida’s 99-member convention delegation would be cut by nearly 90 percent.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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