Political Reform Statement #2: Presidential Primaries

First of all…why is this “Political Reform Statement #2?”  Because my long-forgotten proposal to amend the Constitution after the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission case should be considered as “Political Reform Statement #1” as I have a feeling there will be more of these to come as I try to do what little I can to knock some common sense back into our political process.

Anyway…

I noticed several days ago that the Republican Party had begun laying out its plans for its side of the 2012 Presidential Primaries.  As everybody should recall from 2008 (especially since neither side was running an incumbent), the whole process became a big game of leapfrog as states kept moving up their primaries in order to have more say in who was going to be each party’s nominee.

In a way, I cannot blame some states for wanting to have more of an effect on the process.  A good example is California.  Regardless of one’s stereotypical thoughts about the Golden State, it does have the largest population and the most votes in the Electoral College.  Yet, for many election cycles since most states converted to primaries in 1972, everything was already decided by the time of California’s traditional primary date on the first Tuesday in June.  Is it fair that neither the millions of Democrats or Republicans in California (plus its Greens and Libertarians) get more of a say in who gets to represent them in the Presidential election?  Not really…but, then again, why should a voter in California be more important than one in any other state?

It’s a difficult problem in a county so large with states covering six time zones.  Trying to come up with a balance between giving big states a fair shake and not turning the process into even more of a money-dump on television and radio advertisements is almost maddening.  However, I believe I have done it.

As has been suggested by many others, I believe that the solution is to move to regional primaries.  This allows candidates to concentrate on one area instead of having primaries at the same time in distant parts of the country where, inevitably, the smaller state(s) get ignored.

The difference in my proposal as opposed to many others is that I break the country up into far more regions.  This makes each one somewhat more local and keeps the process long enough so that everybody else in the country — especially the media — gets about the same amount of time to look over and inspect the candidates to make sure that, for one example, a party does not accidentally nominate somebody unfit for office like former Senator John Edwards.

Another difference is that I retain the four small primaries/caucuses that traditionally begin the process.  I admit that calling the Nevada caucus a “tradition” is more than a bit of a stretch but I believe it is an excellent choice due to both population and temperament so that the western portion of the country is represented early along with the Midwest, Northeast, and South.

I also strongly believe it is good to retain these traditional early primaries as they keep a good check on those that simply come in with a wheelbarrow full of money and attempt to overwhelm the competition with advertising.  It is only in these smaller, less-populous, and more politically aware states where candidates must go to every little county and town to present themselves and their ideas in person while subjecting themselves to tough questioning if they have any hope of finishing well and moving on in the process.  If we were to begin the primary season in a state like California or New York…well, in 2008, it would have been all over before one ballot had been cast and we would have ended up with Hillary Clinton vs. Rudy Giuliani instead of Barack Obama vs. John McCain.

The next step in my process was to try to balance each region as much as possible in the amount of Electoral College votes (why I used that measurement is stated in the next-to-last paragraph) and keep each one contiguous and within no more than two time zones (thus avoiding what happened in 1980 when the Presidential election was called early after the polls closed in the east and then everybody in the west stayed home and did not vote in any of the other races).  There are still some wide differences as it is difficult to get the sparsely-populated western states to balance out the more heavily-populated ones in the east.  However, with a special dispensation given to one region combined with the remainder of my plan, it helps make up for these differences.

The ultimate balance will be given by having the order of these primaries determined by a random drawing on February 22nd (George Washington’s birthday for an appropriate twist) two years before the next Presidential election year.  This would be held somewhere in Washington, DC with the drawing performed by somebody such as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a former President, or somebody of that ilk.  In subsequent drawings, whichever region went first in the previous cycle would not be allowed to go first in the next one, and whichever region went last would not get stuck being last again.  Other than that and the one exception I will get to next, everything else will be at random.  Being two years out, this will give all of the states plenty of time to schedule their other elections.

The one region for which should be made an exception is the one I call the Mountain, Pacific, Alaska & Hawai’i.  The reason for this is it includes our two “outpost” states where travel time is always a problem (and thus why they are usually completely ignored in primaries especially since Alaska is heavily Republican and Hawai’i usually leans Democratic in general elections).  To assure that this region does not get ignored and to give candidates the proper amount of time to cover it, I would give it the exception of always having the slot two Tuesdays after Easter.  In my plan, Easter (and its following Tuesday) would be considered to be an “off” week for this primary process even though we all know that no campaign in its right mind is going to rest all that much even if it is one catering to the Christian extremists in this country.  Of course, it is always up to each campaign as to how each one wants to spend its time and money.  However, with Easter always coming in March or April which is still basically the first half of the primary season, I would think that only woe would befall anybody that took a drubbing in this region due to ignoring it, especially the states of Oregon and Washington where the margin between parties is very thin, and had the press barking about being a loser for another week.

So, there you have it…a regional primary plan that combines the best of tradition along with good old common sense…so, of course, it has absolutely no chance of ever being implemented. :-D  Still, I think it’s one heck of a good idea…and, hey, who knows?  Maybe there is hope that there are enough “radical centrists” coming out in this world that want to reject both the tired old policies of both parties as well as their increasing hate and deception.  If enough people demanded this and other reforms, they could happen.  The thing is…will anybody stop watching American Idol long enough to actually start fighting for them?

Using the 2012 calendar, here is how everything would fall under my plan.  Do know that the number of Electoral College votes (noted in parenthesis) will change slightly for some states after the 2010 Census is calculated.  Yes, I realize that primaries award delegates and that Electoral College votes are for the general election.  However, party delegates are distributed in about the same ratio by the major parties — using Electoral College votes is just easier to digest for display purposes.

Also note that all elections are held on the traditional day of Tuesday — no more of this Friday and Saturday crap that actually decreases voter turnout (if there is concern over that, get your state to move to voting by mail like in Colorado and Oregon).

February 28th – Iowa (7)
March 6th – off week
March 13th – New Hampshire (4)
March 20th – South Carolina (8)
March 27th – Nevada (5)
April 3rd – random region
April 10th – off for Easter
April 17th – Mountain, Pacific, Alaska & Hawai’i Region (29)
April 24th – random region
April 30th- random region
May 1st- random region
May 8th- random region
May 15th- random region
May 22nd- random region
May 29th- random region
June 5th- random region

REGIONS

NORTH EASTERN (61)
Connecticut (7)
Maine (4)
Massachusetts (12)
New York (31)
Rhode Island (4)
Vermont (3)

MID-EASTERN (59)
Delaware (3)
New Jersey (15)
Ohio (20)
Pennsylvania (21)

SOUTH EASTERN (61)
District of Columbia (3)
Georgia (15)
Maryland (10)
North Carolina (15)
Virginia (13)
West Virginia (5)

NORTHERN CENTRAL (48)
Michigan (17)
Indiana (11)
Minnesota (10)
Wisconsin (10)

MID-CENTRAL (53)
Arkansas (6)
Illinois (21)
Kentucky (8)
Missouri (11)
Oklahoma (7)

SOUTHERN CENTRAL (62)
Alabama (9)
Florida (27)
Louisiana (9)
Mississippi (6)
Tennessee (11)

NORTH CENTRAL & MOUNTAIN (37)
Colorado (9)
Kansas (6)
Montana (3)
Nebraska (5)
North Dakota (3)
South Dakota (3)
Utah (5)
Wyoming (3)

SOUTH CENTRAL & MOUNTAIN (49)
Arizona (10)
New Mexico (5)
Texas (34)

CALIFORNIA (55)
California (55)

MOUNTAIN, PACIFIC, ALASKA & HAWAI’I (29)
Alaska (3)
Hawai’i (4)
Idaho (4)
Oregon (7)
Washington (11)

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