Editors: The presidential primary calendar is patently unfair.

The presidential primary calendar is patently unfair. This year’s campaign raises the question of whether the system even does what it was designed to do. For more than 40 years, Iowa and New Ha­­mpshire have held the lead-off contests for both parties’ presidential nominations. Largely rural and almost entirely white, the two states establish front-runners and drive most of the others from the race. This year’s calendar also gave disproportionate power to the South; every state in that region held relatively early primaries. In contrast, several large states (including California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) will vote too late to help any aspirant who has already foundered.

The supposed advantage of letting Iowa and New Hampshire vote first is that they promote “retail” politics, giving lesser-known candidates the chance to win and build momentum. Jimmy Carter won the White House this way in 1976, but no one has accomplished a similar feat since. This year, Donald J. Trump won the Republican primary in New Hampshire despite spending little time in the state. Polls suggest that a national G.O.P. primary on Feb. 1 would have given Mr. Trump a plurality of the vote, and it appears that the party will end up with the same result after a primary season lasting more than four months and including at least a dozen nationally televised debates.


It is long past time to find a better way to select presidential nominees—one that gives all regions of the United States, and all types of communities, an equal voice. Both major parties should be held accountable for meeting this goal.

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John Walton
1 year 11 months ago
"Plurality" didn't help Seward against Lincoln, or Taft against Eisenhower. Perhaps what the parties should fix is the process whereby an emerging candidate like Sanders wins the popular vote in a specific state, but loses delegates to the party faithful (hacks) and ward heelers (enforcers). Me, I'm staying tuned to see Heidi Cruz mud wrestle Melania Trump.
James Hynes
1 year 11 months ago
One can see the sense of the Primary system from an age where travel and communication was very slow, but nowadays with television and the internet, it seems very antiquated. How about this as an alternative? Let the parties nominate as many contenders as they wish by a certain date. Then have a national primary for all registered members (or registered voters) of that party. The votes will be made online. This should not be difficult to authenticate with modern secure communications technology. Then say that any candidate who does not meet a certain threshold (say 1% in the first round, when there were 15 Republican contenders this year) drops out. Then the remaining candidates continue to debate and advertise and so on for a few weeks, then there is a second poll with a higher threshold, say 10%, and again anyone under this number drops out. Have several more rounds and then continue until one person has more than 50% (or more than 2/3 if you want to take electing a Pope as a model). The advantages of this include that every person has a vote which counts, not just in the earliest states, and candidates with higher support in some regions and lower in others are not at a disadvantage. Also it should be much cheaper and much quicker.


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