Almost four years ago, The Pilot published an article I wrote on how to fix the presidential primary mess.
Again, we have entered the silly-season of open, closed or proportional primaries, winner-take-all, caucuses, uncommitted delegates — you name it, we will have it.
The current presidential candidates have already been campaigning for almost a year, spent tens of millions of dollars, debated — or not — several times, and most of us are sick of it.
Again, I would urge the next Congress to start over with a simple, 10-page, unambiguous federal law that brings some sanity to the process.
So here’s what I propose:
Intent: The underpinning for this law is one eligible person, one vote that counts — all the way to the party convention.
The existing 435 Districts will provide the basis for equal representation of delegates. There will be four delegates per Congressional District, totaling 1,740.
There would be no “campaigning” before Jan. 1 of the election year. Include in the law a detailed, unambiguous discussion of what constitutes “campaigning.” Appoint a panel of retired federal judges to rule on complaints of campaigning before Jan. 1. If found guilty, the penalty will be that the candidate’s name will be removed from the ballot in the state in which the infraction occurred.
There will be no caucuses. Take a look inside the Iowa caucuses, regardless of the recent mess. On a cold evening, 25 neighbors in a small community crowded into someone’s living room and listened to speeches for several hours, then voted by raising their hand. Given the option to actually go to the polls, perhaps 250 folks from that same community might have actually cast a secret vote.
There will be four regional primary election days with about 50 campaigning days for each. Voting days will be on a Sunday to maximize voter participation. The actual dates will be the Sunday closest to Feb. 19, April 9, May 29 and July 17.
The regions will consist of a number of contiguous states with a total number of Congressional Districts closest to 109 (approximately one fourth of the 435 Representatives). For example, the Northeast Region would include the 13 states in the Northeast bordered on the southern edge by Virginia and West Virginia.
The order in which the regions will hold their primaries will be based on a drawing one year before the national conventions.
There will be open primaries. On April 19, 2016, New York held its primary election, but not for all the voters. New York had a “closed” primary. Closed to whom? In this case 25 percent of the voters were registered as “other” or independent and were denied the right to vote.
Here is the fix: All political parties will hold their elections on the same day and all primaries will be “open.” No one needs to be “registered,” be on the roles or be prior-committed. Just walk up to the polling station, show your ID and request the party ballot you want, period.
Can anyone show me the current registration nonsense in the Constitution? I thought not.
The abomination known as “super delegates” and “uncommitted delegates” defies what our country is all about. Every delegate should be chosen by the voters.
The delegates allocated to a particular candidate in every state will be proportional to that candidate’s share of the total votes cast.
Candidates will not be allowed to “suspend” their campaigns; a candidate is either in or out. If a candidate quits prior to the last regional primary, the delegates they have gained will be reallocated proportionally.
There is one more thing going on that flies is the face of logic and common sense. The norm is that, a few days before the convention, the Rules Committee meets to set the rules. In 2012 one new “rule” was that any candidate without a win in at least eight states would not be placed in nomination. The new federal law should simply stipulate that the convention rules will be written and finalized by Dec. 31 before campaigning begins on Jan. 1.
This is all within the art of the possible and would save us all from many months of pain and suffering.
Lt. Gen. Marvin L. Covault, U.S. Army (ret.), is the author of “Vision to Execution,” a book for leaders.