Fixing the Presidential Primary System – Part 1

After spending my Saturday, transfixed by the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee, I have a new respect for the work the DNC and other parties engage in to make the process appear more seamless than it actually is to the normal folk out there. Apparently, things like timing and order are a big damn deal to a lot of people, and the RBC proceedings were a prime example of what happens when people break, follow, interpret and ignore the rules.

Of the speakers yesterday, MI Senator Carl Levin told a story about the promise of opening up the early contests to states other than Iowa and New Hampshire. That promise, both technically and through the will of the NH SOS was broken. The decision by NH to break from the DNC timing angered Michigan and led to their decision to move their primary.

Yesterday I called that the “you don’t follow the rules, why should we”, gamble.

So timing is important, and at least 48 states would like to have a crack at being the first in the nation. Unfortunately right now there is no mechanism in place to do that.

In order to bring some level of order to the process, the federal government would have to get involved. Right now, primary dates are set in agreements between the state SOS and party officials. These dates are subject to changes in members and personal priority on both sides, and the whole thing can seem chaotic, as we witnessed at the beginning of the primary season when there was talk of an Iowa caucus being held right after Christmas dinner.

So, if you agree that the Presidential Primary system is broken, then what is the remedy?

One remedy would be to totally federalize the process. In March, and May of 2007 four bills were introduced into Congress (2 in the House, 2 in the senate) HR1523, HR 3487, S 1905, and S 2024. All of these measures (HR 3487 and S 1905 are the same piece of legislation in each body) basically set out a way that would normalize the Presidential Primary system through arranging the states into regional “Super regions” (one calls for 4, the others for 6).

The voting procedures of these “Super Regions” would be handled in a couple of different proposed ways. Some call for the large regional “Super Primary” on the first Tuesday of every month from February to June. Others call for states to be selected from different regions, through a random selection, and scattered about.

In January, I wrote a post about Federalizing the Primary System. Since that post I’ve reconsidered some of the remedy, though the basic strategy is the same, however, that’s another post.

I’m interested in the discussion, and I hope you are too. Over the next few days I’ll be writing posts about these proposals, my newer ideas, and whether such a system is both feasible and legal. Feel free to chime in, I’m really interested in ideas from all over.

Thanks for reading!

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