2/18/2007

An interesting primary proposal...

I recently posted about my displeasure with the presidential nomination process and how Iowa and New Hampshire have a disproportionate influence on deciding the nominee and how most of the United States' voters won't have a chance at all to have their say because the whole process would likely be wrapped up by February after only a handful of states have their contests on Super Tuesday.

My original suggestion was to base the contests on their level of voter participation in the previous presidential election cycle. That would incent voters across the nation into participating.

However, I stumbled across an interesting propsal by the National Association of Secretaries of State:

"The proposal divides the country into four geographic areas—Eastern, Southern, Midwestern and Western—and rotates each region to vote first beginning in March. The other regions would hold their primary elections in April, May and June. A different part of the country would vote first every sixteen years."

Now, I listed the cons of having region-based primaries in my earlier post. However, this proposal did bring up an interesting point:

"New Hampshire and Iowa would retain their early status to allow under-funded and less widely known candidates to compete through retail politics rather than the costly media-driven campaigns required in larger states."

I still don't like the idea of Iowa and New Hampshire having this privilege yet again (what about South Dakota? Mississippi? Alaska?), but they do raise a very good point. How could a lower tier candidate compete in the Massachusetts or Florida media markets if those states happened to have their primaries first based on the incentive model I proposed? It would all but eliminate anyone whose campaign does not have deep pockets. In 2008, that would mean Clark, Dodd, Tancredo, Biden, Hunter, Brownback, Vilsack, and several other candidates would be severely disadvantaged.

Perhaps the issue is not so much a matter of which state gets to vote first as it is a matter of campaign financing. Free speech advocates believe soft money should be permitted like it was prior to McCain-Feingold. But that means a millionaire has "more freedom of speech" than Joe Schmoe who can only contribute $20. I'm really not sure of how to best address this problem. Public financing seems to make sense, but how could private expenditures be regulated?

1 comment(s):

Reginald Harrison Williams said...

I think this is a good idea, but I wonder if that is the key to making the primaries more meaningful. Do typical party members really serve as delegates?

Perhaps the delegation needs some retooling in each state to ensure that reps are chosen from all geographic regions within it.

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