A Better Way To Schedule Primaries

February 10, 2020 11:20 a.m.

As were discuss or lament the stranglehold which Iowa and New Hampshire have over the Democratic nominating process, I wanted to share a few suggestions which seem worth considering. Any state getting a permanent or outsized role seems like a mistake. So looking for the perfect, most representative state seems like a fool’s errand.

TPM Reader LV suggests having states go by their voter participation rate, something that would give a deep advantage to states in the upper Midwest like Minnesota and Wisconsin which have always had high rates of voter participation.

To me the problem with this is that is weights for something that is a good thing and tends to be deeply rooted in a state’s political culture but doesn’t suggest any inherent merit for picking a good Democratic candidate.

A plan I like would pair two states in successive weeks through a winter and spring primary cycle. Week one would have the state that went Democratic in the most recent presidential election with the highest margin and the one with the lowest margin. So one very Democratic state and one definitional swing state. Week two would go to second highest and second lowest, and so on. You’d work your way down through the list in succession. After maybe four weeks you’d layer in states that went for Republicans in the previous election and still do a few big Super Tuesday type days that raise the number of delegates available.

One possible problem is that a substantial percentage of African-American voters live in red states and ones that haven’t voted for Democrats in ages – Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina. On the other hand, Maryland has the fourth largest African-American population by percentage and it is among the four or five most Democratic states in the country. Delaware isn’t far behind and Washington, DC. would almost certainly be first to go every time, assuming it was treated as a state under this scheduling regime.

We should consider such a plan. Almost anything is better than the current system.

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