Primary Madness

Jim Baron has an op-ed in today’s Pawtucket Times where he discusses a possible improvement to the Presidential primary system (and once again, Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis seems to be at the cutting edge of reform)…

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, a Democrat, has embraced a plan put forward by the National Association of Secretaries of State – one that might get us past the parochialism and opportunism that is at the root of the states elbowing each other for position on the primary schedule.
Under this scheme, the nation would be broken into four regions: the East, the South, the Midwest and the West. There would be regional primaries in March, April, May and June and the regions would rotate the order in which they hold their primaries every four years.
The first year the East would be in March, the South in April, the Midwest in May and the West in June. Four years later the West would be in March, the East in April, the South in May and the Midwest in June and so forth.
Each region would hold its primary first once every 16 years, and would be last once every 16 years. The exception would be that the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses would keep their status as first-in-the-nation contests so lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates would still have a chance to campaign in states where person-to-person retail politics is as important as big-money advertising campaigns.
Here’s another, lottery-based system proposed by Bill Whalen in the Weekly Standard
Rule One: No presidential primaries or caucuses until the first Monday in February. Let the public have a peaceful January breaking resolutions and watching football.
Rule Two: Start the selection process with the same first four states as in 2008. Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina all are relatively small states. And they reflect four regions of the country with distinctly different economies and cultures. That makes for a level playing field.
Rule Three: Once those four states vote, the game changes. From here on, primaries are held among seven states, every Tuesday, for the following six weeks. That mix would include one “mega” state with at least 20 electoral votes, three mid-size states with a minimum of 10 electoral votes, three smaller states worth four to nine electoral votes, plus one small state with three electoral votes (on the seventh Tuesday, one “mega” state, two mid-sized states and one small state would vote).
I conducted such a lottery with the aid of four baseball caps and one shredded piece of paper. Based upon the new rules, if this system were implemented a year ago, here’s what the 2008 primaries would look like:
  • Feb. 5, Iowa
  • Feb. 10, Nevada
  • Feb. 13, New Hampshire
  • Feb. 20, South Carolina
  • Feb. 27, Ohio, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Oregon, Alaska
  • March 6, Illinois, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, North Dakota
  • March 13, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, South Dakota
  • March 20, Florida, Virginia, Minnesota, Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, District of Columbia
  • March 27, Texas, New Jersey, Indiana, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas, Wyoming
  • April 3, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Connecticut, Mississippi, West Virginia, Vermont
  • April 10, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, Delaware, Montana
The lottery idea is a bit fanciful, but the idea of a two-round system, where a round of individual state primaries is followed by round of regional super-primaries with the order of regions rotating from election to election would be an improvement over what we do now.
The natural question to ask here is is there anyone who likes the system as it is?

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george
george
14 years ago

good start but why are we insisting on having elections on Tuesdays? Make the Primary and the General election Monday holidays!

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Agreed. It’s time that election days are holidays so not just the union hacks can get time to go vote.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“Under this scheme, the nation would be broken into four regions: the East, the South, the Midwest and the West. There would be regional primaries in March, April, May and June and the regions would rotate the order in which they hold their primaries every four years. …
New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses would keep their status as first-in-the-nation contests so lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates would still have a chance to campaign in states where person-to-person retail politics is as important as big-money advertising campaigns.”
Yes yes yes! Where do I sign?
And Bill Whalen has the right idea about no primaries or caucusii until February. Except my preference is none until July. Also no paid political ads until then. Or analysis and pontificating. And water cooler chatter would be frowned upon.
Okay, okay, the First Amendment.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

The only way primary schedule reform will ever succeed is if the leadership of both parties gets together and creates a very detailed, specific proposal. It can be done – they don’t have diametrically opposed interests here.
Maybe we can hand this portfolio to the bipartisan Commission on Presidentiaal Debates?

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
14 years ago

Hi!
The race is on now and a year and a half before the November,2008;election.
I plan to run for delegate like I have done the past four times for delegate in the GOP primary.I started running in 1992(George H.W.Bush);1996(Dole);and 2002 and 2004(George W. Bush);.
I have yet commited to a candidate but leaning in one direction at this point.Will likely wait until this Fall to make a decision.
From a geographical perspective all New England states should be on the same day with the arguable exception of New Hampshire.Since New England states are easily accessible within the most several hours that would seem to make sense.
Does anyone know how many states have winner take all primaries and how many have proportional distribution of delegates?
Regards,
Scott

crowd surfer
14 years ago

I know this is heresy to some, by why must New Hampshire and Iowa get preferencial treatment every presidential election? I realize tradition is involved, but the citizens of these two states always experience “the person-to-person politics”.
Every four years, the people of NH and Iowa have more influence over presidential elections strictly because of where they live. If we are trying to remedy this, it’s time to give people of other states the opportunity of person-to-person politics.

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