Fixing the Presidential Primary System – Part 3

In the last two posts I’ve concentrated on the current proposals to remedy the problems with the Presidential Nominating process and the potential legal and constitutional challenges of implementing such remedies nationally. At the end of my last post I promised to include my solution. Since that time, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College, and institute his proposals for fixing the process, and mandate many voting reforms that are key to maintaining faith in the system, particularly as the voting systems becomes more computer oriented.

A PDF of his proposal can be found here.

News coverage from The Hill.

In researching the proposals and their pitfalls, it would seem that short of a constitutional amendment, there is no remedy to the solution. Amendments to the Constitution are very difficult to pass, particularly when they address issues surrounding the selection of the President. I applaud Senator Nelson, despite my disagreements with him on other issues, for spearheading these efforts. While much of this issue may have been borne out of the dissatisfaction of Clinton supporters, it’s an important discussion that needs to happen in our nation going forward.

I’ve separated my proposal out into five sections: The Regions, Selection, Timing, Process, and Party Control. These sections detail the rules, as I envision them, for future Presidential Nominating procedures to ensure fairness and that as many people, and parties, as possible are included in the process. So, without further ado, here goes.

The Regions

Like Senator Nelson’s proposal, my idea calls for the establishment of regions. Unlike Senator Nelson’s proposal, the states included in the regions would vote on the same day. This does several things, but most importantly, provides for smaller states to have an impact in the process, without being overshadowed by a larger state far, far away, as could happen with the inter-regional system set up by Senator Nelson.

In establishing the regions that I detail below, I took great pains to respect the geographic and cultural commonalities of the states included in the regions. Additionally, an attempt has been made to split the regions up proportionally to current Electoral College distributions (6 regions of as close to 90 electoral college votes per region) as is geographically and culturally possible. Due to these considerations, some regions have more, some considerably less. There are many ways to distribute the states, and this is one of them.

Here are the regions:

Northeast – Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC

Southeast – Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi

Southwest – Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona

Midwest – Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio

Mountain West – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

Pacific – California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii

Selection Process

The first presidential election year that this solution was available, there would be a simple lottery to determine the order. Once that order was selected, a weighted lottery would be in effect, to ensure that regions near the end of the contest had a greater chance of getting closer to the beginning of the contest. The selection process should be held no later than 18 months before the general election date.

Timing

Once the order is set, the contests would begin on the 1st Tuesday after the 15th of Jan, and continue every 4 weeks following, the last one ending the first week of June. This, in no way shortens the process, though in lightly contested years, as in past years with our current system, the final contests may be irrelevant.

Process

All contests are to be open primaries for all parties involved. Because, under this proposal the system is federalized, the quaint, but outdated, caucus system would be gone for everything but the purpose of nominating and selecting convention delegates. In other words, there must be a verifiable popular vote count, period.

Just like states with open primaries, a voter declares what ballot they wish to vote on, and then votes that party’s ballot only.

Because the primary system is federalized, great pains must be taken to include other parties in the primary process. For all practical purposes, the top five parties in each state (for instance, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, and at least one more) should be included in the primary. This way, all parties have a franchise, and perhaps the discussion can move from the artificial monochromatic scheme that we have in the country today.

Party Control

This may be the area of greatest importance to insure the 1st amendment right of association. All rules that nominate the candidates still fall on the individual party. The federal government has no right to involve itself in the functioning of a political party, only the right to determine order and timing of contests, and general rules that maintain a level of fairness throughout the process. Parties have the right to control the distribution of delegates to their nominating conventions. Parties have the right to hold caucuses after the primaries to elect delegates to the convention.

In order for any substantial change to happen, there would have to be a constitutional amendment. I personally like piggybacking on the Electoral College idea, because it seems to be gaining some traction, and it’s been the bane of my existence since 1988.

No solution that I have seen is perfect. Certainly, this one has it’s flaws, but its important to have the discussion going forward. No matter what, the discussion needs to start now. Two thirds of the Congress (House and Senate) must approve a constitutional amendment, followed by three fourths of the states. That’s a pretty tall order that has only been accomplished 27 times, and failed thousands. There are plenty of states out there to screw this up. It only takes 12 states to stop it. There are 16 states with 4 or fewer Electoral College votes (one of which is New Hampshire), more than enough in other words.

It’s a long hard road, and a lot of discussions ahead, but it needs to happen for the good of the country, and the sanctity of one person, one vote.

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