Will States Fix the 2012 Primary Process?

  • May 06, 2008
  • By Pamela M. Prah

What if the presidential primary worked more like a lottery with all the states having a chance at the ultimate prize of voting first in the nominating schedule, ending the coveted tradition of New Hampshire and Iowa leading the pack?
That's a simplified version of one of several ideas being considered by top party and state officials, who aim to prevent a repeat of states' helter-skelter scramble for early presidential primary dates in 2008.
While voters in Indiana and North Carolina go to the polls today (May 6) to help Democrats pick Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as their nominee and Republicans rally behind John McCain, party insiders and state election officials are in informal talks to improve the presidential nominating contests for 2012 and beyond.
“Following the frenzied 2008 primary and caucus schedule that began just a few days into the new year, election officials have a strong interest in curbing the impacts of frontloading and restoring order to the process,” said Todd Rokita (R), Indiana secretary of state and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) during a bipartisan gathering at Harvard University here April 29 that brought together party and state leaders to discuss the presidential primary process.
While all sides agreed that this year's historic run for the White House has energized voters, as evidenced by the record voter registration and primary turnout in many states, many are concerned that this cycle's very early start was unfair to candidates and some voters.
Candidates were forced to start campaigning at Thanksgiving, giving an unfair advantage to highly funded candidates with name recognition, critics say.
And for some voters, their ballots may not count. States like Florida and Michigan were in such a mad dash to be first that they broke party rules and leapfrogged ahead — throwing into question whether their results will count and whether all their delegates can attend the nominating conventions this summer. The parties and states are still working on a compromise.

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