Thursday, September 09, 2004

Thoughts on the election

Wow! It's been a long time sense I've posted anything. I guess It's not exactly the first thing to cross my mind every day. I'm sure that you, the faithful reader, would prefer I post more often. We'll see how things go.

So my wife and I have been having an ongoing discussion on who we think will win the election. She's already made up her mind and I'm considered one of those rare undecided votes that they keep trying to persuade. Anyway, I've found that your location reflects a lot on who you think will win. For example, when I was in Mississippi for the 1996 election, it seemed like Dole would simply overwhelm Clinton. Reality was far from it. In 2000 in Pennsylvania, it felt like Gore was going to win. This year, here in Pennsylvania it seems like Kerry will win also, but all of the national polls appear to be going the other direction. I'm sure some of this is a function of one state leaning the opposite direction then the rest of the nation. Pennsylvania is definitely more of a swing state then Mississippi was. However, to me, it just makes it more difficult for me to objectively predict the outcome of the election.

Some people have said that it would be poetic justice for Kerry to lose the popular election and win the electoral college. I'd have to agree. I'd also argue, however, that if this happens, then it's obvious that the electoral college system should be scrapped. I'm not exactly sure why it wasn't last time, but I think a second "special" election would do the trick.

While I'm on it, there has been some commentary about the unfairness of the candidate selection process. A good article on the subject is from BusinessWeek's June 14, 2004 article titled "No Way to Pick a Nominee". Each state's primaries are getting earlier and earlier in an attempt to out-do each other and actually have an input in who the candidate is. However, in this years election, Kerry was selected in 29 days by states with just 22% of the total population. Kerry effectively won with the February 17th Wisconsin primary, after only 16 states had held their primary elections. The four most populated states, California, New York, Texas, and Florida has no say at all, even though they had pushed their primaries up to March 2nd (for CA and NY) and March 9th (for TX and FL). To see the dates for various states, here is a list.

To this end, I've never had a vote which mattered in the nomination process. In Alabama in 1996 and 2000, we didn't hold the primary until June, one of the last of the states. In Pennsylvania this year, the primary was in late April, after everything was said and done. I imagine that there is a large percentage of the voting population who have never had a vote that mattered in regards to the presidential nomination process.

I see three possible solutions to this. The first two were suggested by the BusinessWeek article. The first proposed that the calendar start with the 13 smallest states in March, the next 12 largest in April and the 12 largest in June. With 60% of the delegates available in the final round, a candidate couldn't get a lock on the election until Memorial Day.

The next, also suggested by BusinessWeek is to use a lottery to assign dates. The 25 smallest states would be allowed to draw for 10 slots in March. All other states would draw for a primary date in April, May, and June. The goal of this would be to return to the pattern of 1960 through 1976, when states accounting for half of the population held their contests in mid-May or later.

My idea is to have ten dates set, two a month for five months. States in groups of five, in contiguous areas would vote on the same day. Then, another region of the country would vote on the next primary date. The nation would proceed though the ten different days giving the candidates two weeks to visit five states. States in each region would be close together to allow the candidates to travel easily among the states. Thus, the first group could be ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, the next group could be CT, NY, PA, NJ, DE, the next group could be MD, VA, NC, SC, GA and so on... There are two keys to this plan... The first is that the state grouping should be relatively stable and not change this is important because the second key is to rotate the dates among all of the states. Thus, in 2004, the first set of states would vote on the first primary date. In 2008, the first set has to vote last in June and everyone else gets bumped up a slot so that the previous second set would get to vote first. This system allows that no state continually dominates the nomination process. New Hampshire? You have to vote last the next time. Virginia? Michigan? Pennsylvania? Your day will come. Every 40 years or so, a state would get a chance to vote first. That translates to an average person will get to have a vote which counts to the nomination process at least once in their life (unless they move at the wrong time). Considering that it's quite possible that some people have never had a counting vote in the nomination process, I think once in a lifetime is a definite improvement.

This plan would also work with one date per month and ten states on each election date. This would allow the rotation to come around every 20 years or so and an average citizen would get to vote first three or four times in his lifetime. However, the point remains the same; every state should get a chance to have its citizens' votes count.

What do you think? Should the system be changed? Are there obvious flaws in any of these three methods? Are any of these methods workable? Do you prefer one over the other, or do you prefer that things remain the way they are? Post a comment and let everyone know!

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