Bialek: Political primaries and caucuses should be reworked


A political primary is a preliminary election in which the registered voters of a political party nominate candidates for office. The key word here is “preliminary.” The current system allows small states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire (assisted by the media), to award front-runner status to the victorious candidate. From there, the candidates travel a path determined by which states want to “leapfrog” the others by moving up their primary dates. Candidates are whisked across the country without any real ability to distinguish regional issues from national issues. Consequently, party platforms are determined by a make-it-up-as-you-go approach. If the primary process were organized on a regional basis, candidates would be able to study the regional issues, campaign to confirm those issues and then receive votes based on the solutions they propose. A regional approach would also prevent a premature selection of a front-runner because success in one region certainly would not guarantee success in the next region. This would also further validate the process because each state would still have a say all the way down to the end. Finally, the number of delegates awarded in each state should be determined by the percentage of votes won by each candidate. And yes, convert the caucuses to primaries.

Accordingly, the political primaries should occur between January and June of each presidential election year. Each of the six regions would be assigned a particular month. A lottery held in June of the previous year would determine which month each region holds its primaries. An example illustrates the format:

  • January — Middle West states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.
  • February — Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
  • March — Atlantic states of Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • April — New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
  • May — Northwestern states of Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.
  • June — Southwestern states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

Joe Bialek

Cleveland, New Hampshire

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