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January 30, 2008

Fixing the Primary System

Every four years, we go through the same routine. We're presented with a slate of candidates and all of them visit two states, maybe three. By the end of the primaries in those states, the field is winnowed down to just a few candidates and like Anwyn says, voters in states that aren't New Hampshire and Iowa are usually forced to pick from who's left instead of their first choice.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm tired of having my choices limited by the voters of two states. It's time to fix the process and make it more representative. Voters in later primary states should have a chance to make some impact on the entire field of candidates, not just who is chosen by a small pool of voters.

My friend Joe (who lives in Indiana and for that reason says he's "never cast a meaningful primary vote") emailed me a couple of months ago with his suggestions for a more ideal primary structure. I think it's a plan with promise, and the resentment stirred by this year's primary election might just be the impetus needed for voters in 48 states to tell the party we're fed up with being controlled by the other two.

Here's the plan:

1. Have three presidential primary dates, one per month. Say, Mar, Apr, May.

2. Rank the states and DC descending by electoral votes, breaking ties to prefer states that entered the Union earlier (DC is last by the date of the 23rd amendment). So CA is 1, Texas 2, etc. The electoral votes are only a way of structuring the process. Since electoral votes are based on population, using them to split up the states is a way of dividing the country into rough thirds. Each state would be allowed to apportion delegates according to their normal process and in their regular number.

3. On the first primary, the seventeen states that are ranked 3, 6, 9, etc. hold their presidential primaries. Next month, it is 2, 5, 8, etc., and then the last month 1, 4, 7, etc.

The advantages are that no few early states are overly influential. If one candidate has managed to mathematically lock up the nomination after only 2/3 of the states have voted, then there's likely enough consensus already that the last states won't feel disenfranchised, as they do now. The reason the states are spread out over three dates is to give the small states some say. If all the states were on the same day, then just the large or undecided states would be visited and the others ignored.

Here are the lists:

First month:

New York - 31
Illinois - 21
New Jersey - 15
Virginia - 13
Indiana - 11
Washington - 11
Arizona - 10
Colorado - 9
Connecticut - 7
Oklahoma - 7
Kansas - 6
Utah - 5
Rhode Island - 4
Idaho - 4
Vermont - 3
Montana - 3
D.C. - 3

163 electoral votes, 30%

Second month:

Texas - 34
Pennsylvania - 21
Michigan - 17
North Carolina - 15
Tennessee - 11
Wisconsin - 11
Minnesota - 10
Alabama - 9
Kentucky - 8
Oregon - 7
Arkansas - 6
Nebraska - 5
New Hampshire - 4
Nevada - 4
Delaware - 3
South Dakota - 3
Alaska - 3

171 electoral votes, 32%

Last month:

California - 55
Florida - 27
Ohio - 20
Georgia - 15
Massachusetts - 12
Missouri - 11
Maryland - 10
Louisiana - 9
South Carolina - 8
Iowa - 7
Mississippi - 6
West Virginia - 5
New Mexico - 5
Maine - 4
Hawaii - 4
North Dakota - 3
Wyoming - 3

204 electoral votes, 38%

For the Record... - Joe emailed this proposal to me in December, before any votes had been cast. This isn't a reaction to the victory or loss of any particular candidate.

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posted by Slublog at 10:36 AM

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