Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Our Electoral System Just Keeps Getting Worse
Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn made an interesting observation in his column yesterday about the negative effect that moving up the primary dates is having on the electoral process. (Illinois' is coming up on Super Tuesday next week.) He writes:
I’m talking about how unfortunately close the first Tuesday in February is to the first Monday after New Year’s Day.

That day—when life returns to normal after the holidays—marks the unofficial start of the spring primary season, every bit as much as Labor Day marks the unofficial start of the fall campaign season.

Ordinary people (not political junkies) begin on that day to focus on the candidates and weigh their votes. The candidates joust, speechify and advertise, and we take our measure of them.

This winter, we have about four weeks. And that just isn’t enough time for a proper campaign to play out -- for the gaffes and gotchas to take their toll, for challengers and lesser-known candidates to shake enough hands and make enough speeches to get into the game.

Truncating the unofficial season (it’s usually about 10 weeks, similar to the fall) unavoidably decreases the knowledge of the general electorate.

What effect will that have, besides just a less informed electorate?

The shorter season also increases the importance of incumbency, money and endorsements by other politicians.

Hmm. The bipartisan support in the General Assembly for cutting six weeks out of the cycle starts to make a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Great, so the shortened primary season will simply contribute to the degradation of our political system. As if it wasn't screwed up enough as it is. (I've written about some of my suggestions for reform here.)

Nonetheless, I'm totally opposed to the actions of the Democratic National Committee's decision to strip states like Michigan and Florida of their convention delegates as a punishment for deciding to move up their primary.

(For those of you who are unaware, the primary system works very similar to the Electoral College in the general election in that the popular vote in each state doesn't actually decide the winner. It only decides how many delegates for each candidate to send to the national convention next summer. It's the delegates themselves who actually cast the votes to nominate the party's presidential candidate.)

But stripping these states of their delegates basically disenfranchises them from the process. Their votes don't count. They don't get to have a say in picking the nominee for their party. That seems rather extreme, doesn't it? Is it right to take away a whole state's right to vote in the primaries because the politicos in their legislature decided they wanted to bump the primary up? Should thousands of people's opinions not matter because the DNC wants to be pissy about their rules? (And for the record, it's not just the DNC. The RNC also stripped Florida of half its delegates as a punishment for moving up the primary.)

All of this is just more evidence that we are in drastic need of comprehensive electoral reform in this country, from top to bottom, as soon as possible.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 5:56 PM | Permalink |


1 Comments:


At 1/30/2008 08:56:00 PM, Anonymous Miko

On the flip side of this, the parties seem bent on maintaining the early positions of Iowa and New Hampshire. One benefit of the earlier primaries is to reduce the impact that these states have. (Indeed, this is the reason that Michigan gave for their choice of primary date.) Another nice thing is the Feb. 5th bunch-up has decreased the influence of the south in Democratic politics via Super Tuesday; as long as they vote majority Republican, they have no right dictating the Democratic nominee to that extent. The best thing of all, of course, would seem to be to just move all of the primaries later.

And I agree completely about the wrongness of not counting Michigan/Florida deligates. I'm also not a fan of the DNC's super-delegates.

For those of you who are unaware, the primary system works very similar to the Electoral College in the general election in that the popular vote in each state doesn't actually decide the winner. It only decides how many delegates for each candidate to send to the national convention next summer.

For the Democrats, it's even worse since they have a really bizarre system of dividing up the popular vote within a state (as opposed to between different states) as well.

But with Edwards' dropping today, I've become quite a bit less interested in this election anyway.

 

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