Sunday, September 7, 2008

Election Primary System Must Be Changed

I am writing this as a follow up article to the first entitled, “There is no other way”, the theme of that one was to remove corporate money from politics. This one deals with the process itself which must be simplified.
We are nearly finished with this season’s election process which began early last year and now has 60 days left, after which the process will start over again. It is like a perpetual motion machine; once you start it spinning it just keeps going, as if it had a life of its own.
A number of political entities jockeyed for position in the primary process realizing that their States voting citizens would be also ran votes while the real decisions were made earlier in the process. Michigan and Florida went against the Democratic Parties edict and moved their primaries forward only to find that their votes when finally recognized had been diminished so that they had no effect on the outcome.
I live in Arizona which is one of the last to vote. By that time the field has been winnowed down to two viable choices whereas when it all started there were eight Democrats and eight Republicans. The Democrats were; Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. On the Republican side were, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee and John McCain.
It all starts in Iowa. I lived in Iowa from 1971 to 1993. I was active politically and did attend the Caucasus which chooses the candidates. I never felt good about it. To participate you go to a school or church auditorium and after preliminary instructions, head to an area assigned to a candidate. The total number attending dictates how many votes are needed to get a point count. Once settled in with those you can count on then you roam the place trying to get someone to change their vote and go for your candidate. Once it is concluded then it announced which candidates received points. When these are added together with the other 99 counties then the results are reported. Why I did not respect the system is because it is usually held on what is usually a very cold February evening. This year it was moved forward to January 3rd. Who wants to be away from home for four hours and drive home on slippery streets and then try for a little sleep before heading to work the next day? The percentage of potential voters actually participating is very small, as I recall less than 10%. When I lived there it was a nearly lily white farm state with a large insurance industry, government and little else. No state could be less representative of America than Iowa. The candidates knowing how important it is to win the first state spend inordinate amounts of time traveling the state. Many, including I recall, John McCain visiting all 99 counties. They must grovel for votes by extolling the virtues of ethanol or they are dead meat.
Next comes New Hampshire, another must win state. Again, it is rural and mostly white, not at all representative of America as a whole. This is where it paid off for John McCain. He had lost in Iowa and was counted out but his town hall meeting process garnered affection for him. He won and the process continued, next to South Carolina and on and on until all states votes have been tallied.
My objection to the process is that these first states essentially decide who the finalists will be. A candidate who I might admire will have dropped out before my turn to vote and it angers me that I am not given the same opportunity as the states mentioned above.
How this cane to be, I do not know. I do know that Iowa became the first state in the primary season in 1972. Party officials seem to think that it is cast in stone. If it began in 1972 then it could be changed for the next election. I haven’t tried to research what the schedule was before 1972 but whatever it was it could not be more unfair than the current system. This is certainly a windfall for the state, millions of dollars are spent there and considerable media attention is focused on a state that most people could care less about. The same is true for the others. In fact dragging it out for such an extended length of time causes expenditures of billions before it is concluded.
Other countries have limits on campaigning time. In Canada all Provinces vote at the same time so in effect there is no primary just an election with the highest point count the winner of each district. They are not voting for a President. They vote for their representative. The party with the most votes then selects their leader. To illustrate this point, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that on Sunday, September 7, 2008, he plans to dissolve Parliament and call for early elections in hopes of strengthening his minorities hold on power. Voting will be done on October 14, 2008. Just imagine a voting process lasting five weeks whereas ours is an ongoing process seemingly without end.
If the process started in January of the election year I suppose we could live with it but it doesn’t. I started seriously in 2007. If truth be told it started years before as candidates who lost before sometimes re-appear. This is a boon to all areas of news reporting; particularly television with their talking heads arguing in defense or opposition to candidates. Every word used by a candidate is dissected to search for its true meaning. I can’t begin to imagine the revenues they receive from advertisers as well as the parties and candidates, probably in the billions. It certainly represents full time employment for correspondents traveling with the candidates. The states and communities also receive revenue as people flock to these locations whenever any action is occurring. I, of course believe all of this to be wasted funds which if available could certainly be put to better use. You can’t turn on your set without your program being disrupted by a commercial most of which are negative in nature.
Here is my suggestion to limit the time and increase fairness. Compress the time. Instead of January, let the voting begin in June of election year with all states voting at the same time. Allow the candidates to travel the country visiting all states if they wish to put out their message asking for support. A clear winner may not be produced so let the delegates to the conventions work it out as they used to do and select their candidate during their convention. There are probably many good reasons why this is a bad idea but using it as a starting point for discussion I am asking that dramatic changes be made for the good of us all.

Jack B. Walters
3961 N. Hillwood Circle
Tucson, AZ 85750
(520) 722-2958
September 8, 2008

1 comment:

John R. Carter, Sr. said...

I support your suggestion for a one-time vote by all state delegates of each party to determine, or at least focus on, which nominee will be elected by each party. The convention for each party would then determine the final President elect for the party. The downside of this is that the media would be in a frenzy trying to cover all party elections.