Mon County senator proposes election season changes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. State Senator Mike Oliverio (R-Monongalia, 13) is the lead sponsor on a pair of bills that would create an exclusive primary election for the office of president of the United States and move the state primary election to August.

Senate Bill 218 would create a presidential preference primary election that would be held on the second Tuesday of February. Synchronizing the primary election with nearby political bellweather states would make West Virginia more relevant to candidates and a manageable stop on the campaign trail.

“Try to align them with whatever Ohio and Pennsylvania are doing,” Oliverio said. “That way, presidential candidates will be able to come into the region and spend time in West Virginia. I think that will be important for our state long-term.”

Senate Bill 152 would move the state primary election from May to August. Oliverio said Candidates would file in June rather than January, shortening the campaign season. That move could encourage more qualified candidates to file, run, and serve. But it will also give lawmakers more time to “work” as opposed to campaigning and raising money.

“Right now, candidates have to run for office almost all year,” Oliverio said. “You file for office in January, with a primary in May and a general in November. “It just takes a lot of money and a lot of time.”

Moving the primary date would have a major impact on delegates serving two-year terms. According to Oliverio, delegates would be substantially more effective in office and on the campaign trail.

“They run for office, get elected, and come down here for one year, and all of a sudden in January they have to file and start running again,” Oliverio said. “So, they’re running for office for half of their two-year term over and over again.”

Though not included in either measure, Oliverio is one of many who favors aligning municipal elections with the state. Alignment would allow communities to share resources, poll workers, and lower the cost to taxpayers.

“I think it will drive down costs for our municipalities, and it will dramatically drive up participation,” Oliverio said. “So, we will have people serving on our city councils who are far more representative of the area they represent.”

Both bills have been sent to the Government Organization Committee.