A Better Primary System

February 26, 2020

by Jon Bingham

Once again, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina winnow the field and shape the race. The looming avalanche of 14 Super Tuesday contests defines (no, more like overwhelms) the prospects of the few candidates remaining. Meanwhile, Indiana watches from the sidelines.

Beyond the political calendar noted above, many other flaws in the nomination process persist: the variety of rules for delegate apportionment (proportional or winner-take-all), many states having “open” primaries thus allowing non-party voters to impact the party’s results, the potential influence of super delegates, etc. The process has no rhyme or reason other than political actors gaining and maintaining their opportunities for undue power and influence. The solution is not found in joining the existing game by shoving Indiana into Super Tuesday in future years.

Rather, in light of the recurring frustrations of the current system every election cycle, my therapy has been to ponder, craft and refine a framework that would create an election process truly worthy of the office it seeks to fill. After all, this is the Presidency of the United States.

My “Presidential Nomination Solution” is simple yet dynamic, giving all states occasional early opportunity to influence the nomination. Its design is purposeful, non-partisan, fair, understandable and transparent. The following key features will eliminate political maneuvering and significantly improve public confidence in the outcome.

The first vote involves three states: No one state should get as much focus as Iowa has. Yet, the number of states getting first focus should remain rather small. A large number of states all at once at the beginning would overwhelm any prospects of lesser-known candidates being able to be heard and considered. Three states to start allows retail politics to remain a part of the process.

Simple, consistent voting format across the states: I usually am no fan of federal solutions for the states. However, the Presidency is the ultimate federal office. As such, this election process should have some aspects of consistency aligned with how the general election occurs. Thus, all state Presidential nomination contests should simply be primaries (using the same voting infrastructure as the general) scheduled on Tuesdays.

Closed primaries: Democrats should select the Democrat nominee. Republicans should select the Republican nominee. Those not willing to affiliate with that party should not impact that selection. Party affiliation status must be in place before January 1st of the election year.

The calendar – not too early, not too late, not too fast, not too slow: The first three states’ primary date will be in early February (as is typical now). Two weeks will separate most election dates in February, March and April, allowing space for campaign activities and a debate among remaining candidates between those primaries. In late April and through May, the pace of voting in the remaining states becomes weekly to complete all 50 states before Memorial Day. As such:

No Super Tuesdays: The volume of states on any primary date will remain manageable for candidates who are emerging as viable due to early voting results. The pacing and volume are:

Order of the states: Keeping things simple, use alphabetical order. Thus the first time this system is implemented:

Rotation of the states: The first 12 states in one election cycle drop to the bottom of the list the next time. Thus, the second time this process is used:

(Note: Due to 50 states being shifted by 12 each cycle, the process is even more dynamic. For instance, the next time Alabama is early, it is with Wisconsin and Wyoming.)

No super delegates or unbound delegates: All delegates are won directly and only based on each state’s primary results. Achieving a simple majority of the delegate count secures the nomination.

Purposefully graduated system of winning delegates:

Loyalty of delegates: In June, candidates are responsible to select their delegates from each state so that they are assured of loyalty during the convention proceedings.

Loyalty of candidates: Once this fair and transparent process is in place, candidates should no longer be allowed to threaten a third-party run. Anyone considering a third-party run should simply do so. However, anyone who enters a party’s nomination process forfeits the option of running for President or Vice-President as an independent or other party candidate that year.

These features of the Presidential Nomination Solution provide the framework that addresses the wide variety of shortcomings in the current system. Now is the time for genuine reform to create an election process worthy of the office it seeks to fill.

Jon Bingham is a senior lecturer of economics at Indiana University Southeast. More information about The Presidential Nomination Solution can be found at https://pppjon.wixsite.com/presnomsolution.



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