Saturday, April 15, 2006

On Primary Schedules

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.

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