Friday, December 21, 2007

How to fix the Primary Shuffle

This coming year's election cycle is unique, in that many states have moved their primary dates earlier than ever. This is an effort to give their state's voters more of a say in who will be selected for each party's nomination.

The problem we're seeing is that by front-loading all these primaries into early February (22 states, nearly half of the delegates will be selected on February 5th) the candidates don't have time to campaign in all those states and the voters are short-changed out of meeting prospective nominees.

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has put together a plan of rotating regional primaries. Here is how they envision it working, from the website:
Under the NASS plan, party primaries/caucuses would be grouped by region beginning in 2012.

* A lottery would be held to determine which region would begin the sequence the first year of the plan. The next presidential election year, the region that held the first position would move to the end of the sequence, and the other regions would move forward.

* Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their leading positions in the presidential selection process based upon their tradition of encouraging retail politics.

* Primaries/caucuses in each state of a given region would be scheduled on or soon after the first Tuesday in March, April, May or June of presidential election years.

Regional Groupings Under the NASS Plan

Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Guam.
This system will allow each region to be spotlighted during each of the months, so candidates may make more effective use of their time and give voters in each region an opportunity to see them and make a more knowledgeable choice.

It will also give lesser known candidates a chance to build their support and give each region more choices. And the rotating regions will keep any one area of the nation from dominating the entire process. For instance, a West region candidate such as a California senator might not do so well in the Southern region, but knowing that the West region's primaries are coming up may help keep that candidate in the race longer than under the present arrangement.

It's not a perfect system, but compared to what currently exists it's significantly better. Ultimately, the voters will benefit by having more choices.


Anonymous said...

lol! Good idea Bob, I hope you write your favorite Senator a letter of support for proposing this idea earlier this year! happy holidays!

CT Bob said...

It is a good idea, and that's why Joe co-opted it. The NASS has been discussing this for over a year now. And anyway, I think it's up to the individual states and the DNC/RNC to run their primaries, so I don't know what Joe is doing by introducing a bill in the Senate.

Unless it's his usual grandstanding. Then it makes sense.

The comments on the article bring up the favored positions of NH and Iowa. I tend to agree that tradition isn't necessarily a good enough reason to give them "special" status, especially considering both states tend to not be very ethnically diverse.

Of course, for all I know Obama might sweep both states, which would devalue that argument.

Happy Holidays to you!

Anonymous said...

How about 8 regions? They would be held over 2 months. Why?

Each of these four regions are very large, and so the candidates would gravitate towards the population centers. It would be essentially no different than the national election.

For instance, the west region includes California, the west coast, Alaska, the entire Mountain Time Zone. Where would you spend your time? California- the state with the most delegates up for grabs. All the others will get considerably less attention. And the northeast also will be similarly detached.

The whole primary system has that nice ring about it that you have a better chance of meeting the candidate locally.

Instead, what if the states were grouped both by geography and by similar way of life. For instance, have Florida, Georgia and Texas primaries on the same day. Then the rest of the southern states on another day.

For the west, you group California and possibly Nevada together.

The rest of the western states vote on the same day.

On another day you include columns of ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, LA, AR, MO, IA together.

Then the more populous MN, WI, IL, IA, MI.

for the northeast: New England on one day.

NY-PA-NJ on another.


There you go. And yes, these would rotate also. Mind you that if its a 4-grouping or an 8, it will still be 16 or 32 years before your group comes up first anyway, so it won't matter in the grand scheme.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a dumb idea. By random choice it gives too much momentum to the candidates favored by the first couple of regions selected.

A better idea would randomly take 4 states from each region in the first primary and then randomly 4 more states for the next one and so on. This method may not be easy on the candidates but will help keep the media from trying to crown the victor early.

Anonymous said...

Well--what's wrong with holding a lottery for all states, dispensing with the regions? Establish 10 different primary dates, and split the states into them randomly, 5 per date. The only other rules would be to prevent the really big states, CA & TX & NY for example, from being on the first two dates, and no more than one of these per date. This way the campaign will be forced to start off small, then can build and not all be over on one day, such as will be the case this year. After February 5, the game will likely be over for both sides.

Anonymous said...

I think all 50 states should have their primaries on the same day. That would make it fair for all of the states and would be a good estimation of how well a candidate could do in a national election.

It is not fair that tiny states like iowa and new hampshire get to decide who the nominee will be. If all the states vote on the same day and we eliminate winner take all primaries then every region will be valued equally.