Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Primary Problem (and a Solution?)

Let me start with a huge hat tip to Yellow Doggerel Democrat for this post and The Scratching Post for pointing it out. The specific topic is the disenfranchisement (sp?) of the voters of Florida and Michigan by the Democratic Party (with help from others). Both posts have interesting comment trails, and I strongly suggest reading them.

I was posting my comment at The Scratching Post and realized it was going way too long so I moved it here...

This whole problem (and the theme of the comments at Yellow Doggerel Democrat) is the problem of some states having virtually no influence on the Presidential primaries, and everyone wanting, at least some. So what's happened recently? Everyone has been moving their primaries up. We did here in California. This has become so absurd that some states are holding their primaries more than 10 months before the general election. New Hampsire has gone so far as to pass a law that they must be the first primary. Let's not even think about the infinite regress that would happen if some other state passed a similarly insane law.

OK back to my main thesis. The issue is how to ensure that everyone gets at least some influence, and to stop the insanity of perpetually advancing the primaries. I think there is a simple, fair, and doable solution (which I guess guarantees it won't happen).

Point 1) The Federal Government has mandated federal elections take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This ensures that no one votes before or after anyone else (time zone issues aside). So there is a precedence for the federal government to step into the election dates of states.

Point 2) It is impossible for everyone to have influence everytime. Just won't happen. So don't even try to do it.

Point 3) Everyone deserves some influence, at least some of the time.

Point 4) In order to open the primaries to as many reasonable candidates as possible it makes sense to start with a small number of small states (keeps the cost down, doesn't require a huge machine, allows for grass roots (i.e., The People) politics). Hopefully these early states would also show a balance of the so called red states and blue states to give both viewpoints influence everytime.

Point 5) Any system, chosen by any state, must allow for the inclusion of the votes for any and all members of the United States Armed Forces, regardless of the physical location of these voters.

For the following solution I will assume that the only political units in which voters are registered are the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (the extension to additional territories/new states is obvious).

My Proposed Solution: The federal government should enact legislation to mandate:
1) All Primary Elections for federal offices (President, Senate, House) shall occur on the first Tuesday and after the first Monday in June, except that
a) Presidential Primaries in the States of New Hampshire and Iowa may be held in the presidential election year on the First Tuesday after the first Monday in March and
b) The other states (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) shall be divided into four groups [Aside: there are 50 of these, I'll let Congress do the grouping]. In years divisable by 16, the first group would be allowed to vote on the first Tuesday after the fourth Monday in March, the second would be allowed to vote on the first Tuesday after the Third Monday in April, the third group would be allowed to vote on the first Tuesday after the Second Monday in May, and the fourth group would vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June. In years with a remainder of 4 (after divsion by 16) the dates would be the same, but the order would be 2, 3, 4, 1. In years with remainders of 8, the order would be 3, 4, 1, 2, and in years with remainders of 12, the order would be 4, 1, 2, 3.


Everybody gets to vote "early" sometimes. We keep the history of NH and IA (and they are small and at least kinda one blue one red). The primaries are spaced about three week apart, so there is time to campaign in each state. We fix the forward movement to lock it at March (note we are not at March yet this year). The primaries are all done by early June - plenty of time to hold the party shows conventions.

I think it would actually work. I'm sure it will never happen.

1 comment:

Dean said...

I like the symmetry, I like the spacing, I like the concept of rotation... I just can't shake the concept of the feds screwing it up somehow.