Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Congressional Action

This is part three in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here and part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here.

Today's post isn't so much about breaking new ground as it is about relaying some recent news that has been, to this point, lost in the shuffle. Two weeks ago, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) re-introduced the bill (with Michigan Senator Carl Levin as a cosponsor) that he put before the chamber during the first session of the 110th Congress (2007) and attempted to raise awareness of during heated negotiations over the Florida/Michigan situation in the Democratic nomination process of 2008. S.2024 lapsed when the 110th adjourned and would have established an interregional primary lottery system. As of July 9, that same plan was back, but in the form of S.1433, the Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009.

But what exactly is an interregional primary lottery system? Let's take a tour, shall we?

The basic premise is the same as the Dingell-Anuzis plan I described in this space a year ago:
Dingell-Anuzis Modified Plan:
This is the plan that has been introduced in Congress. It divides the nation into six regions and splits primary season into six contests that are three weeks apart beginning in March and ending in June. Under this plan, Iowa and New Hampshire lose their favored, early positions. The contests are not simply made up of the regions though.
[Click to Enlarge]

[Please excuse the maps here. They are badly in need of some refurbishing. Still, they get the point across.]
There are six contests, but a lottery determines what week anywhere from one to four states from each region will hold their contests. The map below shows one possible way that a lottery could split the states. The fifth week (in brown), for example, takes one state from each region: New Jersey from the Northeast, North Carolina from the South, Maryland from the Border states, Illinois from the Upper Midwest, Louisiana from the Southwest, and Oregon from the West. Believe it or not, the Michigan-based plan has Michigan going during the first week of the process during the first iteration.
[Click to Enlarge]

This plan didn't move in Congress in 2008 because of the election and likely won't go anywhere during the 111th Congress either simply because both parties are tinkering with their nomination rules at the moment. As long as reform from the parties remains an open issue (and we'll know by sometime in the summer of 2010), Nelson's plan will be in a holding pattern. However, should both parties fail to make at least some reforms, Nelson is apt to up his rhetoric on the issue. But in the meantime, this bill only serves to put some tangential pressure on the parties to get something meaningful done on the presidential primary reform front.*

Regardless, the bill is active and we have the means of tracking its progress (or lack thereof) from here on out.

*I say tangential because it is an open question as to whether Congress would even have the ability to intervene on this issue. But I'll have more on that on Friday.

Recent Posts:
Louisiana 2012: Jindal/Palin Both Top Obama

State of the Race: New Jersey (7/22/09)

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Two Birds, One Stone


Jack said...
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Josh Putnam said...

The Ohio Plan that was passed by the RNC in the spring of 2008 called for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to precede the small state group with the remaining large states divided into three "pods" bringing up the rear. An earlier version of the plan split those larger states into three groups based on region, though.

Fortunately I excerpted the CQ article where I read that because I can't find any other documentation of that previous version anywhere else (Well, not beyond a cursory search anyway.).

But that version is the closest to your regional/exempt 4 plan.

Jack said...


My initial comment was based on a misunderstanding of the post (I was reading it as having all the states in each region go at once), which is why I deleted it. But perhaps I shouldn't have, as the "exempt 4 plan" is still possible with that interpretation. Now that I understand it properly, I would like this plan if it preserved those exemptions.

I'm heading off to Mike Capuano's MA-8 for four days (no, I'm not doing a grand tour of Massachusetts congressional districts) and look forward to reading a few excellent new posts when I come back!

Josh Putnam said...

I think your confusion is part of the problem with this plan. It is just plain hard to describe. It would be a lot simpler and more logistically sound (from the candidates' perspective) if it was all the states in one region going at once.

My basic rule of thumb on these ideas is similar to the rule regarding campaign slogans: If you can't fit it on a bumper sticker (or in a sentence or two) then it likely won't fly. And I don't say that because I think it is too complicated for the American public to handle. We've already got a complicated system, though. Why switch one mess for another?

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.