North Carolina is shifting its 2016 presidential primary from May until just after South Carolina votes, becoming the latest in a string of states that are trying to increase their influence on the quadrennial nominating contest.
The change was enacted this month as a part of a major overhaul of Tar Heel State election law that was approved by the Republican legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
According to the legislative language, North Carolina would hold its "presidential preference primary" the first Tuesday after the traditionally early South Carolina votes, if it votes before March 15, 2016. Given how protective South Carolinians are of their early-state status, it would appear probable that the North Carolina primary will be moved up in 2016.
In doing so, North Carolina joins Florida, Michigan, Nevada and other states that have moved their primaries up in recent presidential elections in an effort to take a bite out the outsized impact that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina typically have on the Democratic and Republican White House nominating contests.
The election-date change was part of a recent, controversial overhaul of North Carolina's voting law, which included a photo ID requirement for voters and a shorter early-voting period.
North Carolinians now vote on the Tuesday after the first Monday of May. But the date change provision adds the caveat that "if South Carolina holds its presidential primary before the 15th day of March, the North Carolina presidential preference primary shall be held on the Tuesday after the first South Carolina presidential preference primary of that year."
President Obama won North Carolina in 2008, but lost it narrowly to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 — two outcomes that are reflective of the state's evolution in recent years from solid red to competitive purple. Both Democrats and Republicans in North Carolina argue that it should be considered a swing state in presidential elections.