Editorial: Primary process overdue for overhaul
The Iowa caucus flop this week is driving discussion about doing away with the current presidential nominating contest schedule. By being first, Iowa and New Hampshire have for decades received an outsized amount of attention from candidates, and it’s time for a change.
As of Thursday, the results from Iowa were still trickling in, following a fiasco Monday night with a new app that the state Democratic Party clearly hadn’t appropriately tested.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders appear nearly tied, but Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on Thursday called for a recanvass of the Iowa results, which could further delay the official outcome. This must be challenging for candidates, who are already in New Hampshire ahead of that state’s Tuesday primary.
It’s a huge embarrassment for the party, but it’s also a good opportunity to consider other options.
Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, is leading the charge. On Tuesday, she announced she would promote a change in the nominating process, and she’s looking for bipartisan buy-in. She worked on a similar effort back in 2007 to boost Michigan’s importance in the 2008 primary.
Michigan Republicans have similarly advocated for moving up this state’s primary.
Dingell says she wants to change the rules to give more states the opportunity for candidates to pay attention to the issues their voters care about.
“Today is the first day of putting together a coalition that will support a fair nominating process that reflects the diversity of our country,” Dingell wrote on Facebook. “I will reach out to Republicans to do the same.”
She suggests a rotating or regional approach for primaries and caucuses. Starting with a cluster of states would prevent candidates from camping out in Iowa and New Hampshire for months, ignoring others.
One study highlighted how “early voters have up to 20 times the influence of late voters in the selection of candidates.” It shouldn’t always be the same voters in the same states.
Both the DNC and the Republican National Committee set rules governing when states can hold primaries and caucuses and how they go about it. States that bend the rules are punished by stripped delegates at conventions.
Michigan Democratic consultant Howard Edelson says the timing is right, calling a discussion on reconsidering the process “way overdue.” And he thinks Dingell is a worthy advocate, saying “if anyone can do it, she can.”
Edelson points to how legislative boundaries are redrawn following the census every 10 years. Primaries should undergo a similar reconsideration.
“We haven’t updated the primary process in over 40 years,” he says.
Michigan-based Republican strategist Stu Sandler can also see some advantages to switching-up the system, although he thinks Democrats may be trying to deflect attention from the debacle playing out in Iowa.
Revamping the nominating contests should be bipartisan, and Dingell has proven she can work across the aisle. Republicans should join her in pushing for an overdue change.