SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – While Californians waited until June to vote in last year’s presidential primary, a new proposal could move the state’s primary date much earlier.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla and State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles) are introducing Senate Bill 568, which would move the state’s presidential primary to the third Tuesday in March.

The governor would be allowed to move the primary even earlier, opening the door to a California primary being the third contest in picking a presidential nominee, after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

In 2016, the Iowa caucuses was held on February 1st, with New Hampshire voting several days later. By comparison, the California primary was held on June 7th.

“A state as populous and diverse as California should not be an afterthought. Moving up the California primary in 2020 makes sense and will give California voters a more significant role,” Padilla said in a statement.

Supporters cite the state’s 19.4 million registered voters, which is the highest in the nation.

“California is leading the nation on clean air, criminal justice reform, and expanding healthcare for all, and moving up our presidential primary will ensure our state’s voters are heard in the national debate,” Lara said.

Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) backs the measure, saying, “SB 568 will help make California relevant again in the selection process of our next President.”

The last time California voters had an early presidential primary was in 2008. According to Padilla, that primary had the highest turnout since 1980.

Primaries for other statewide and legislative offices would also be moved up if approved. In 2008, only the presidential primary was moved to February, which led to California having two primaries that year.

A committee hearing on SB 568 is scheduled for April 18th.


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