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Reading CAat14K's front paged diary Alabama: Moving on up (over at MyDD) had me thinking again about the best way to schedule presidential primaries.

Defining "best" as that which serves the people best removes what I am about to write from the realm of political reality in Washington, DC and various State capital circles that actually get to decide these things. In those places "best" is defined by political and financial capital and some people's short term views of the "best" way to produce a winner. What is "best" for the people is not part of that equation.

What I hear most of us clamor for is diversity and the opportunity for our state and therefore our vote to count. We want a say in who our Presidential nominee will be. This too separates us from the circles of the politically powerful who believe they know what is best and therefore want to keep that decision to themselves.

Being mathematically and logically inclined it seems to me that the "best" way to approach this is to divide the states up into geographic regions; divide the states up into groupings based on population size; and to divide the calendar into equal portions in an effort to give as many people in as many states as possible a say in who is each parties nominee.

With this in mind I created 10 geographic groupings of 5 states each. I then split these into 2 sets of 5 groupings each. Further, I ordered the states in each grouping by census data from 2000. In addition I created an eleventh category that includes Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Americans Abroad. I know that there are other territories that hold individual primaries or caucuses of their own but forgive me for not being sure of which and how many they are. They would be placed in this eleventh category as well.

So the resulting groupings are as follows. The numbers following each state are their population ranking.

Set 1

Northeast:
Massachusetts - 13
Maine - 41
New Hampshire - 42
Rhode Island - 44
Vermont - 50

South:
North Carolina - 11
Virginia - 12
Tennessee - 16
Kentucky - 25
South Carolina - 26

Ohio River Valley:
Pennsylvania - 6
Ohio - 7
Michigan - 8
Indiana - 14
West Virginia - 38

Southwest:
Texas - 2
Arizona - 20
Oklahoma - 28
Arkansas - 34
New Mexico - 37

Mountain:
Colorado - 24
Utah - 35
Nevada - 36
Idaho - 40
Wyoming - 52

Set 2

Atlantic:
New York - 3
New Jersey - 9
Maryland - 19
Connecticut - 30
Delaware - 46

Deep South:
Florida - 2
Georgia - 10
Louisiana - 22
Alabama - 23
Mississippi - 32

Upper Midwest:
Illinois - 5
Missouri - 17
Wisconsin - 18
Minnesota - 21
Iowa - 31

Northern Plains:
Kansas - 33
Nebraska - 39
Montana - 45
South Dakota - 47
North Dakota - 48

West:
California - 1
Washington - 15
Oregon - 29
Hawaii - 43
Alaska - 49

And -

Other:
Puerto Rico - 27
District of Columbia - 51
Americans Abroad - unknown
and perhaps others....

Now, set a primary calendar that begins the third Tuesday in January and schedules a primary every third Tuesday from there through July. Schedule 5 (sometimes 6) different states for each date.

For the first date in January we will select 1 state from each of the 5 groupings in set 1. To the closest degree possible we will select the highest numbered state in each of 5 population groupings (i.e. 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50). 3 weeks later we will do the same only this time selecting from Set 2. 3 weeks later, set 1; 3 weeks later, set 2, etc.

The result would be a primary schedule that looked something like this:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008:
Michigan - 8
Arizona - 20
South Carolina - 26
Maine - 41
Wyoming - 52

Tuesday, February 5, 2008:
Georgia - 10
Maryland - 19
Oregon - 29
Iowa - 31
North Dakota - 48

Tuesday, February 26, 2008:
Ohio - 7
Tennessee - 16
Oklahoma - 28
Idaho - 40
Vermont - 50

Tuesday, March 18, 2008:
New Jersey - 9
Wisconsin - 18
Alabama - 23
Nebraska - 39
Alaska - 49

Tuesday, April 8, 2008:
Pennsylvania - 6
Virginia - 12
Colorado - 24
New Mexico - 37
Rhode Island - 44

Tuesday, April 29, 2008:
Illinois - 5
Washington - 15
Connecticut - 30
Mississippi - 32
South Dakota - 47

Tuesday, May 20, 2008:
Texas - 2
Indiana - 14
Kentucky - 25
Nevada - 36
New Hampshire - 42

Tuesday, June 10, 2008:
Florida - 4
Missouri - 17
Puerto Rico - 27
Kansas - 33
Hawaii - 43
Delaware - 46

Tuesday, July 1, 2008:
North Carolina - 11
Massachusetts - 13
Arkansas - 34
Utah - 35
West Virginia - 38
District of Columbia - 51

Tuesday, July 22, 2008:
California - 1
New York - 3
Minnesota - 21
Louisiana - 22
Montana - 45
Americans Abroad - unknown

There are a couple possible variations on this theme. I purposefully picked the lowest population state in each of the 5 groupings in order to keep someone from wrapping up the nomination by winning California, Texas, and New York in the opening weeks. This could instead be handled randomly.

Instead of having all 5 states have the same primary day they could be broken up to Tuesday and Thursday in the same third week or perhaps 1 per day during every "primary week."

4 years later it would be necessary to ensure that each state rotated to a different location on the schedule in order to ensure that states such as West Virginia and Minnesota didn't always get the shaft of being in the last groups and that the modern day problem of Iowa and New Hampshire claiming ownership status as first in the nation didn't occur either.

I think the end result of such a schedule and 3 week spread would be one of more states seeing more candidate visits and being included in more candidates electoral strategies. More states and more voters would have a say. Urban, rural, east, west, south, mountain, plains, coastal, midwest, southwest, northwest, would all get a chance to have their say in who best represented their views and values in a Presidential nominee.

Originally posted to Andrew C White on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 01:54 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So does it make sense (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, audemocrat

    to have 1 primary per day during primary week?

    Would this enhance the chances of candidates stumping in each state at least that one day?

    Is a three week cycle sufficient to ensure candidates enough time to visit the states in each cycle?

    Would they visit all 5? Or would election strategies emerge that had candidates doing delegate math calculating which state(s) to concentrate on in each 3 week, 5 state cycle?

    Do we want a wide open contest? Or do we want to annoint the strongest possible winner as soon as possible?

  •  Too Fair (0+ / 0-)

    I think you're being too fair on a regional basis. The primary calendar has way too much sway over the nominee to let all regions and state sizes be represented so equitably.

    We need to privilege states and regions that are reliably progressive on economic issues. This can include states that are also progressive on social issues, but it can also include culturally conservative states that would go Republican if not for a strong economic populist campaign message. In other words, West Virginia, Minnesota and Montana should not be at the bottom of your list: they should be towards the top, along with Oregon, Vermont, Arkansas and Wisconsin. In other words, small-to-medium states that are receptive to a progressive economic message, and in which economic progressivism will trump cultural conservatism.

    The very last states should be states like Utah and South Carolina, where conservative cultural issues will trump progressive economic issues in foreseeable election cycles.

    20 years of Bush-Clinton is 20 years too many.

    by mildewmaximilian on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 02:24:02 PM PDT

    •  I don't want to be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      audemocrat

      as guilty of stage managing the schedule as the current power brokers are.

      Let's let the people decide. All the people.

      •  People Differ (0+ / 0-)

        The people in Utah or South Carolina would nominate the wrong Democratic candidate if given the choice today. The people in West Virginia, Vermont or Oregon would probably pick a candidate who better represents the progressive values that can appeal to everyone in the general election.

        20 years of Bush-Clinton is 20 years too many.

        by mildewmaximilian on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 02:39:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Media Buys (0+ / 0-)

          Though I will have to admit that if you had mandatory free political advertising as a condition of t.v. broadcast licenses, so that media buys in major markets like New York and Los Angeles were not prohibitively expensive, you could institute a blind random primary system where the lineup changed every four years.

          That would not work today, as the media corporations still have a stranglehold on major market access.

          20 years of Bush-Clinton is 20 years too many.

          by mildewmaximilian on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 02:41:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Geography is linked to Ideology (0+ / 0-)

      If you don't pay attention to the kinds of candidates different states and regions will nominate, you leave the primary system to open to manipulation from the HRC , inc. wing of the party. Democrats have not run on populist progressivism in a national campaign since the 1930s, to their detriment. It is important to schedule the 2008 primaries so that we might finally run on progressive economic disasters (outsourcing, bankruptcy, China trade deficit, wage depression) as well as our proposed solutions (hemispheric living wage). These issues are not divisive, 50-50 issues as are cultural issues like abortion. The vast majority of voters are on the progressive side of these debates. It's important to choose a calendar that will produce a candidate who cand speak to those voters on the economic issues, where they are most winnable. We do this by privileging out-and-out progressive states as well as the states where economic populism trumps cultural conservatism.

      20 years of Bush-Clinton is 20 years too many.

      by mildewmaximilian on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 02:36:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just off the top of my head (0+ / 0-)

      What about starting the primary season with the three states that gave the Democrats the biggest margin of victory, the state that went Republican most heavily, and the state that was most closely divided the presidential election before.  
      This would give early, but balanced, voices to the most progressive wing of the party along with those exiled to red country, along with people who have a sense of what qualities are most crucial for general election victory.

  •  I Like Geographic Groupings... (0+ / 0-)

    ...and would just schedule primaries based on such groupings rather than population groupings.  Rotate the groups each election.

  •  good suggestions, but (0+ / 0-)

    I think the first couple primaries should be composed only of one state.  The advantage of having Iowa and NH start the process is that it forces prospective candidates to master grassroots politics.  There is something to be said for a candidate having to stop by for living room chats and local luncheons.  S/he wouldn't be able to really ingratiate him/herself into a local atmosphere trying to campaign in so many states at once.

    Similarly, it will be more expensive to campaign in so many states at once, further amplifying the rewards of being independently rich/famous at the risk of pushing out sound candidates that don't start with the same fundraising base.

  •  possible counter-argument (0+ / 0-)

    Some question the feasibility of rotating the primary schedule each cycle because of the impact it would have on individual states.  Many states tie other primary and referendum dates to their presidential primary, and states may resist rotating these dates every year, especially if the dates are not known atleast a cycle or two into the future.  
    Personally, I'm willing to require a local ballot initiative to juggle their schedule a little if it means we have a more democratic means of nominating a candidate for most powerful person in the world, but some may disagree.

  •  Just last year (0+ / 0-)

    Jimmy Carter and James Baker led a major commision on primary reform, that I think recommended a feasable solution.  This one-page summar article is a really good read on the topic.

    The gist of their proposal isn't too different from yours:

    create four regional primaries, held after the Iowa caucus and the New
    Hampshire primary at one-month intervals from March to June. The regions would rotate their
    position on the calendar every four years.

    This would be a good reference when contacting party leaders or any other possible activism.

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