Resolved: All state primary elections should be on the same day

I heard this story on the news this morning. Rather than resurrect this thread I’m going to start a new one here.

It’s always seemed bizarre to me that the primary election season is so spread out. By convention time, many delegates chosen in the early primaries are committed to candidates who are no longer in the race.

I don’t understand why it would be so difficult and/or undesirable to have all primary elections held on the same day, just like the general election.

I know that in bygone days, there was some logic to having the candidates travel to the various states before their respective primaries, but in the age of instant TV coverage of every word uttered by the candidates, I don’t see this as being as much of an issue anymore.

What would be the downside (if any) to this proposal?

I don’t think it workls that way. The candidates who win the early primaries generally enter the later ones with some sort of momentum, making those votes fairly irrelevant.

Well, the downside, if you think it’s a downside, would be that it would really increase the amount of money that the candidates would need to spend on the campaign, and help insure that “establishment” candidates…those who are able to lock up funding and support early, would have an overwhelming advantage.

With every primary on the same day, a candidate would need to operate and fund campaign organizations in every state he wanted to contest. This would require a lot of money and a lot of supporters, unlike now, where the candidates can start their campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then, when those primaries are done, move staff to other states to campaign there.

It would also make sure that a bandwagon effect didn’t occur. Right now, winning, or even doing better than expected in the early primaries can draw attention to a candidate who might have been overlooked. This is what happened in 2004, for example. Dean was the early favorite before the primaries. But Kerry’s surprising wins in Iowa and New Hampshire and Dean’s disappointing performance in both races helped give Kerry the momentum he needed to win the nomination.

That’s true. I neglected to mention this in my OP, because I was typing faster than I was thinking.

One of the main arguments is that the states with late primaries have virtually no impact, because the nomination has been decided before they even get to the polls.

Again, why not all on the same day?

I think they should stagger the primaries over a couple or three months, have the elections on Saturdays, and vary which states go when every time. No pissant states elbowing to be “bellwethers”.

I’m 110% against the idea. The present process makes the candidates prove themselves one on one with some pretty tough audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire. If one of the second tier candidates makes an impressive showing, then we all take a second look at him. Sure everybody knows Hillary. But not everybody knows Dodd or Richardson. Either one of them could make a fine president and with the present system they have a shot. Put them all on the same day and they have no shot. You would have Hillary v Rudy, just because they have the name recognition and the money.

I really don’t want the election decided by California, Florida, Texas and New York delegates every single time. Do you?

I’m not saying the current system is great, but that would be a lot worse.

I don’t like the “momentum” effect, but wouldn’t holding all the primaries on one day further marginalize darkhorse candidates? That’s not so good. You would also get less of a sense of how the candidates deal with the process of campaigning.

Moto makes a good point, too - the current system is certainly flawed, but at least some of the small states count this way. The parties also make some effort to make sure ‘representational’ states get a say early on, which is a good thing.

We would have never heard of Bill Clinton under the OP’s proposed system. The '92 election would have been between George H. W. Bush and Paul Tsongas (the early favorite and establishment pick).

Clinton won because he got a chance to prove himself with voters in small states before moving on to more populous venues. He could not have afforded to compete if all primaries had been on the same day.

Right. Clinton was also smart to completely bypass the Iowa caucuses, knowing he couldn’t win against favorite son Tom Harkin. He concentrated his resources and played it smart.

I don’t like the idea that a candidate would be decided on one day. Having a party choose the right candidate doesn’t always work out, but really, in a two party system it seems a matter to me that is worth taking time in deliberation, changing one’s mind, turning against the frontrunner, for the underdog, and so on.

I am not sure that it would work, but I’ve thought about having a primary election season – maybe like primary elections every two weeks over two or three months or something – and having the order of the primaries determined by drawing of lots. New Hampshire might among the first group of states to vote, or they might be the last.

Then again, I’m not sure that the Federal government dictating such a system is the best idea, either.

I think there are sound reasons for NOT having the primaries all at once. However, as I have always lived in Colorado, or New Mexico, it does chap my ass a little that the nominations have been pretty solidly decided before our caucuses. Thus I’d like to see the primaries on some sort of rotation. The problem with that is, with a presidential election only every 4 years, voters wouldn’t live long enough to see a complete cycle. Maybe a lottery system for primary dates?

I’ve got just one comment here, but in my mind it’s an essential one: Why in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Sacred Marinara Sauce, poured out for us sinners, are we assuming that the sole purpose of the primaries is to select nonentity-type delegates (a la Electors) to cast predetermined votes for party candidates for President?

There are literally thousands of elective offices across America, all of which (save the handful of nonpartisan ones) are subject to party candidates opposing each other in November. The chief way in a two-party system like we have to keep the choices from being Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee is to have an effective primary system in which a challenger can get his name before the public and potentially unseat state representative P.T. Partyhack or longtime Sheriff Buford T. Justice, or win the right to oppose them at the general election by getting out the vote in his own, opposition party.

I suspect that to insist that every state schedule its own local primaries at the same time simply to prevent the issues associated with the presidential election, would literally need a constitutional amendment, since this strikes at the heart of residual state sovereignty. Even if I’m wrong on that (and I don’t believe I am), it works a decided injustice on the mechanisms which individual states have evolved to choose their own state and local officials and the candidates who will oppose them in the general election.

And to have a separate national presidential primary day distinct from local primaries is putting every precinct in America to unnecessary extra expense.

I am in firm opposition to this idea.

In some places, that truly is the case. The Iowa caucuses, for example, do not involve statewide or local races at all, and cannot address them because of their structure.

I agree totally that statewide and local races are very important, but the presidential election is important as well, and there has to be a structure in place for voting in primary elections. In lots of places, that means separate primaries. Given the importance of the elections involved, I have no problem with that.

a) It should remain spread out. In fact, it should be more spread out. Get rid of Super Tuesday, etc.

b) But the order in which the primaries occur should be different every year. Sort them randomly for every election cycle. In '08 it could be North Dakota, Florida, Vermont, Missouri, etc; in '12 perhaps Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, Hawaii, etc.

You’d have to overcome some well entrenched state traditions and laws in order to do this.

But in any case, why should Iowa and New Hampshire, or any handful of random states, get to set the pace for for the rest of us? The early winner doesn’t always end up as the nominee but surely gets a big advantage. Many voters in later primaries base their decisions on who won in the earlier primaries rather than any of the candidates’ stances on the issues.

I support a simultaneous primary election in all states. Have the voters make their decisions on what the candidates have to say in nationally televised debates rather than how many votes they got six states over.

Slight hijack: The media is complicit in all of this. I really don’t know where any of the current candidates stand on many of the issues because the media does a lousy job of reporting that, but I know who is leading in “the polls” because that’s all they talk about.

The system we have now isn’t so bad in structure, just as practiced.

A. It is partly the media’s fault. Political reporters on TV are frustrated sportscasters obsessed with calling the race, & they skew the contest by looking at it as just a contest instead of really talking about policy.

B. It is partly the fault of state laws. Super Tuesday is a horrible idea, sort of a mini version of the OP’s proposal, which ends up locking in way too many votes too early & too soon after the NH primary.

Polycarp doesn’t know this, but my state’s (Mo.) regular primaries (for everything but POTUS) are later in the year, maybe even after the national conventions. For the presidential contest, we have tried caucuses, which can end up with a result being pushed through at each locale by an organized faction; we have tried primaries, where the result is made by people in little booths without consultation (& had to schedule them much earlier than our normal primary elections). Which leads me to…

C. It’s partly just that outside of Iowa & NH–which have developed a politically engaged subculture due to long tradition–many if not most of us, even when we go to caucuses, don’t know what we’re doing. I went to a caucus once, didn’t know the system, didn’t know what questions to ask, & ended up letting a prefab candidate & platform be passed first thing, without debate–then tried to start the debate, after voting for cloture without realizing it. We let ourselves be pushed around, by people who already have a candidate & a plan and push hard enough.

There has already been a good point made about how a spread out system lets candidates without a lot of money build credibility, and then get money, over time. Another reason I like a spread out system is that it lets us see how candidates react to adversity. Over a long campaign, which will include at least some losses, each candidate will have to readjust his or her course. If they can’t do this well, I wouldn’t want them as a candidate or as President. It doesn’t always work - I wish someone had Swiftboated Kerry before the general election, for instance.

I say this being a California resident for 10 years, during which time my primary vote has never meant anything.

I agree that maybe reordering the primaries, so all states get a chance to be early and late, might be a good idea.

I’m all for a rotating system. My fear is that a bunch of the larger states will push their way to the front of the line. In that case, the candidate with the most money, up front, is going to have a BIG advantage. Currently, with several small states having their primaries first, a candidate with a small warchest still has a chance at making an impression. If the early primaries were dominated by California and New York, anyone running would have to have huge amounts of money from day one.

Maybe divide the states into 8 or 10 groups, of about the same population, and rotate the groups.

As for Polycarp’s question

We aren’t assuming that the sole purpose of the primaries has to do with the national offices. We are assuming that the relative order of the primaries mainly effects the national election. States aren’t pushing their primaries forward because they want to vote on school bond issues before Iowa does. Honestly, do you believe that California is looking to move their primaries up to February 5th for the local offices?

I’m with you on all that.

IMHO, the way to ensure that the large states have an impact, without the costs of campaigning there dominating the picture, is to save all the large and most of the medium-sized states, encompassing, say, 70% of the delegates, for the last day of the primary season. That way, the game would still be afoot when the last state voted.

And have the small-to-medium-sized states have primaries strung out from possibly June of the year before, to May of the year of, the election, with the order chosen on a rotating basis. Lots of time to see the candidates in action, lots of time for voters to consider the good and bad sides of everyone, periodic actual results to occasionally force the media narrative to be rewritten (e.g. an Edwards or Richardson win early on, this year, would force the media to pay some positive attention to a Dem not named Hillary or Obama), and a chance for a second-tier candidate to build up a track record and a war chest to compete with the powerhouse candidates before Super Tuesday at the beginning of June of the election year.