Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Using a Lottery to Determine the Dates of Presidential Primaries?

I live in Michigan. This is a state that the Democrats will almost certainly have to carry to win the 2008 Presidential Election. You would think that would mean that Democratic candidates for President would be eager to appear before Michigan voters.

Wrong. All of the major candidates except Clinton have withdrawn for the Presidential primary in Michigan. And Hillary, while appearing on the ballot, will not campaign in Michigan. Why? Because the state thinks that Michigan (a key state in the upcoming election) has just as much right to help determine the Democratic nominee as voters in New Hampshire and Iowa. But the candidates refuse to annoy voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who always get to vote first.

Of course, all of the states (except the privileged few that always vote first) feel the same as Michigan. Many states are trying to move their primary elections up so that the desire of their voters is actually noted before the nomination is wrapped up. However, the snub of Michigan seems down right suicidal for the Democratic candidates.

Maybe the National Basketball Association has the answer. Or so says Charles Euchner of the Boston Globe in an article titled Look to the NBA draft to fix the primary mess. He wrote, "Now that the presidential primary system has become undeniably undemocratic, it's time to develop a new process to select candidates for the White House. Both parties should look to the National Basketball Association for inspiration."

He continued, "No state deserves to determine the range of choices for everyone else, year after year. It's not fair that Iowa and New Hampshire always get to eliminate a raft of candidates before bigger and more diverse states have their say. The parties might use a variation of the NBA draft to schedule primaries and caucuses. The NBA randomly selects one of the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs to the first 14 picks. (The number of ping-pong balls in the machine is weighted to account for the teams' records.) The 16 playoff teams then make their draft selections in the reverse order of their records. To make a primary/caucus schedule on the NBA model, the Democrats and GOP should pick a state from the pool of the 17 smallest states to go first. Then, states from the pools of the 17 biggest and the 17 middle states should alternate chances to pick dates. The parties could move through the three-pool rotation until the schedule is complete."

This sounds like a good plan. I even think they should use lottery balls like the NBA does. Let the nation watch in suspense as the rotating pots (small, middle, large) are drawn from to determine voting order. "And the first state to vote in the primaries in 2012 is...Hawaii! The second state will be Utah! And the third will be Michigan. That completes round one. For round two, the first small state will be..."

And to add a wild element, the US territories who also have convention votes should be throw in a separate bonus pot. Each territory could be drawn and have a random number assigned to it from 1 to 17 to determine which round their primary would be held in. I would love to see the Presidential candidates have to fly out to Guam and campaign there early in the process.

Is a NBA styled draft the solution for Presidential primaries? Maybe not but the current system does not work. If you have a better plan, please drop a comment and suggest it.

No comments: