Sunday, April 08, 2007

Front loading the Primaries

Connecticut is going to join the mad rush to move its primary up to February 5th, from the first week of March. This supposedly is to help us have a say in the primary process.

This rational is flawed, because it seems that EVERYBODY is moving their primary up to early February. The national Democratic and Republican parties are trying to limit how early each state may schedule their primaries, threatening them with losing delegates at the national conventions if they move to January. But for the most part, the first week in February is allowed.

What we have now for the Democrats is as follows, from Wikipedia (not necessarily the best source, but the easiest to find):
Phase One: January

Under party rules, no state may hold their primaries or caucuses before February 5 with the following exceptions:

* January 14, 2008 - Iowa (caucus)
* January 19, 2008 - Nevada (caucus)
* January 22, 2008 - New Hampshire (primary)
* January 29, 2008 - South Carolina

Florida is considering moving its primary to January 29, violating party rules. Michigan is considering moving its primary to this date if other states do so as well.

Phase Two: Hyper-Tuesday, or the National Primary.

Since the beginning of 2007, many states have moved, or are discussing plans to move, the dates of their primaries or caucuses up to February 5th. The nation's first quasi-"National Primary" may very well take place on that day. This has also been dubbed "Super Duper Tuesday, "Giga Tuesday," "Mega-Tuesday," and the "Powerball Primary."

* February 5, 2008 - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Utah.

Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas are also considering moving their primaries or causcuses to this date.
So that leaves Connecticut's influence likely lost in the excitement of states like California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey among many others.

Enough delagate votes will be decided on February 5th to easily send a candidate to the convention as a sure winner, and make all later primaries unnecessary.

This doesn't bode well for the primary process, and more importantly, for the voters.

The primary process was designed to allow the voters to get to know their candidates. By schedule no more than a few primaries each week between January and June, the candidates had time to visit most states, giving the voters a chance to see and hear each candidate.

The process tended to weed out the lesser qualified and allow the most gifted to rise up to the lead. If the 1992 race were structured like next year's, there's no way in hell the public would have even HEARD of Bill Clinton, let alone having him win it.

The way things are now, the best funded and most well-known candidate will win early, and the 2nd tier and dark horse candidates will drop out. We won't get to know the candidates through the primary process.

So, what can we do about this?

There have been suggestions about how to change this. Probably the scheme that makes the most sense is to have the smaller states primary first, then the middle-sized states follow, and finish with the big states like California, New York, Texas and Illinois. This will give all the candidates time to build and for the voters to get to know them. Susan Bysiewicz discusses this in this article in the New Haven Register by George Hladky.

But that can't possibly be implemented in time for the 2008 election. So we're stuck with grassroots tools, like blogging and working to host personal appearances by the candidates. We can make an effort to bolster the lesser known candidates by publicizing their issues and opening a dialogue with them. We have to get involved to help prevent the biggest and best-funded candidates from overwhelming the democratic process.

Otherwise, it's all gonna be just Obama and Hillary. There are plenty more candidates with plenty more to say. We deserve to hear it.

The political landscape is changing rapidly, and we shouldn't sit by and just watch it happen. All of us, as a group, have the means and the ability to adapt and shape the process to best serve the voters.

It's up to all of us to ensure that we are provided with the best choices for our leadership.

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