National Primary Day
Everyone’s vote matters! No one state monopolizes the process. The argument for leading with a small state is that it allows unknown candidates to emerge. But did we need that this cycle? Pete Buttigieg, a small-town mayor, didn’t need Iowa to break out in serious contention. Andrew Yang became a mini-sensation without Iowa. Meanwhile, several senators and governors failed to get traction precisely because Iowa was cut out of the process.
We already had a national primary in 2019, weeding out a field over 20-candidates strong into one that has three, maybe four candidates. Let’s just cut out the rest of the crap and vote.
The Delaware Plan
This was first proposed by Republicans, and creates four superprimary days, starting with the smallest states and ending with the largest ones. That final primary day would grant 50% of the delegates, theoretically allowing candidates to gradually build support.
The first “pod” would begin on the first Tuesday in March, and those following would be spaced 30 days apart. Population totals below are from 2007—I’m too lazy to update right now. (Actually, I broke both my legs in a scooter accident and am in too much pain to do so. Wear helmets, people. Mine probably saved my life, or at least my brain.)
POD 1: American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Guam, Wyoming, District of Columbia, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Puerto Rico. Population total: 14.8 million.
POD 2: Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, West Virginia, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Connecticut, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina. Population total: 33.5 million.
POD 3: Kentucky, Colorado, Alabama, Louisiana, Arizona, Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri, Washington, Indiana, Massachusetts. Population total: 64.9 million.
POD 4: Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, New York, Texas, California. Population total: 160.6 million.
Of course, this system would do what the current one already does—favor the interests of a small group of small states that already have undue influence in our presidential process (the Electoral College). And again, we already have a national primary system in which candidates raise tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. The idea that anyone needs “small states” to become viable is literally obsolete. Again, look at Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang.
The Interregional Primary Plan
First proposed by Rep. Sandy Levin in 2007. It would break up the country into six regions:
Region 1: (A) Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont; (B) Massachusetts; (C) Connecticut, Rhode Island; (D) Delaware, New Jersey; (E) New York; (F) Pennsylvania.
Region 2: (A) Maryland; (B) West Virginia; (C) Missouri; (D) Indiana; (E) Kentucky; (F) Tennessee.
Region 3: (A) Ohio; (B) Illinois; (C) Michigan; (D) Wisconsin; (E) Iowa; (F) Minnesota.
Region 4: (A) Texas; (B) Louisiana; (C) Arkansas, Oklahoma; (D) Colorado; (E) Kansas, Nebraska; (F) Arizona, New Mexico.
Region 5: (A) Virginia; (B) North Carolina; (C) South Carolina; (D) Florida; (E) Georgia; (F) Mississippi, Alabama.
Region 6: (A) California; (B) Washington; (C) Oregon; (D) Idaho, Nevada, Utah; (E) Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming; (F) Hawaii, Alaska.
Every Election Day, one state from each region would vote. The A’s would vote together. The B’s would vote together. A lottery would determine which subgroup would get to vote first, and then they would rotate every cycle. That way, every region is represented every primary day, and everyone would get a chance to be in the first batch at some point.
The Rotating (Regional) Primary Plan
Recommended by the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2000, this plan would divide the country into four regions—Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. There would be four primary days, one for each region. They would rotate every cycle. The original plan preserved the Iowa/New Hampshire duopoly, but just ditch it and rotate. Would work fine. Perhaps my favorite.
The American (Graduated Random Primary) Plan
This plan was proposed by political scientist Thomas Gangale in 2003 and aims to give smaller states a leg up on the process, building up over time in two-week increments for 10 total primary days.
The first primary day would randomly include states with a number of congressional districts that totaled eight (say, Oregon with 5 and New Mexico with 3). Every two weeks, you’d add another eight congressional districts. The final week would total 80 congressional districts. There would be a lottery to see which states landed when.
Needlessly complicated, and again, we don’t need small states to give candidates a chance to be heard. Technology has its benefits.
The options boil down to:
- National primary vs. longer calendar
- Small states first vs. regional
- Random order vs. preset order
Getting everyone on the same page would be a herculean task, but literally every plan above would be better than the current system.