The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill

New York’s Democratic presidential preference primary was canceled on Monday—--big news in The New York Times and in Politico.

People voted at the Brooklyn Museum in September 2018.Credit...Demetrius Freeman for The New York TimesThe gist of the story is that New York will not conduct a presidential primary for Democrats as planned on June 23, now that Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has bowed out of the race. New York wasn’t planning on a primary for Republicans, since President Donald Trump would have been the only candidate. The state primary—also June 23—will be held as scheduled.

While the New York State Board of Elections made the final call to cancel the presidential primary, it was really the result of legislative action. On April 3, the New York legislature enacted SB 7506B, permitting the state board of elections to remove a presidential candidate from the ballot if the candidate publicly announces the suspension or termination of their campaign.  

At this point, the presumptive presidential nominees are known—Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden—so it’s time for the focus to shift to state primaries, when legislative candidates are selected.

With state primaries, the big story this year is about changing dates and changing processes. In 2016, 10 states held their state primaries in April and May. This year, just four states have done, or will do, so—and all of these elections are relying more than ever on absentee, or mail, voting.

Oregon has been an all-mail state for two decades; Nebraska has sent an application for a mail ballot to all voters; Idaho has created an online portal for requesting an absentee ballot and encouraged people to vote by mail, and Ohio conducted its primary almost entirely by absentee voting.

In June of 2016, 14 states held state primaries and (as has been traditional) July was an election-free month. This year, we have 18 primaries in June and two in July, for a total of 20 for this two-month period. Lots of states are ramping up their absentee voting plans.

Primary elections in August and September are about the same: 19 in 2016, and 18 this year. And, as always, Louisiana stands alone with its open congressional primary on the same day as the presidential general election, Nov. 3.

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 and state shelter-in-place orders are driving the shifts from April and May to June and July. Whether more of these dates will be shifted depends on the virus—and on each state’s ability to ramp up absentee voting to meet voters’ demands.

The table below shows the changes. To access the back-up data, see 2016 State Primary Election Dates and 2020 State Primary Election Dates.

And for more on absentee/mail voting, please join our upcoming webinar series on Voting Outside the Polling Place, to be held on May 6, 13, 20, and 27.

State Primary Elections, 2016 and 2020



April & May

June & July

August & September


7: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas


9: Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia

14: California, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia

19: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming


7: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas 

4: Idaho, Nebraska, Ohio and Oregon  

20: Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia



18: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming

Wendy Underhill is the director of NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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Posted in: Elections, COVID-19
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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.