Friday, June 06, 2008

How should the Democrats change their nomination process?

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From Paul in the comments:

  • "Should we scrap the superdelegate system?"
  • "How can we improve proportional allocation?"
  • "Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?"
  • "Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?"
  • "Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?"
  • "66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?"
  • "Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?"
  • "Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea -- would it be possible for voters to express 'preference' so that if their candidate isn't viable they can vote for one who is?"
And any other related issues you want to bring up.


Siroco said...

"Should we scrap the superdelegate system?"

"Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?"
Keep the 50% Penalty. Apply it cummulativly.

"Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?"
That's fine with me. NV and SC now provide balance.

"Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?"
It used to be a matter of State Law in Georgia.

"66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?"
Make Super Tuesday a little less super and spread States out. Perhaps have some rotation for those wishing Super Tuesday status.

"Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?"
State Issue IMHO
"Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea ?

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

Get rid of irregularities:
No more caucuses, closed primaries, insist on registration of party loyalty at least 60 days in advance. (If Dems could correlate with Republicans on voting at the same time, this would help to eliminate potential 'operation chaos' activities).

Condense the race:
5 regional "Super Tuesdays" over the course of 5 months. Each group of states goes to the ballot on the same day. Probably by the 3rd Tuesday a clear winner would appear.

Each State gets 2 Supers and that's it and One for D.C. so no even vote stalemate.

15 Viability:
Yes, keep it.


cloud9ine said...

i didn't find the most important question.

why do territories that get no say in the GE get a say in the primaries?

Mim Song said...

State borders don't mean very much any more, but our entire electoral system is based on them. Why not disengage from "geography is destiny" a bit? We could have an urban primary in which several cities across the nation would choose to hold their primary day together; the weeks leading up to it could include a media-rich discussion of urban issues. The same could be done for rural/farm districts. We should do something that reflects the ways people actually consider their politics, and states ain't it.

michael from Minesota said...

The biggest issue is primary timing. The ideal would be to have a balanced group of early primaries of six or so small states in January and add progressively larger states with the five big guys at the end to decisively determine the out come. Having SD and MT at the end is pretty silly. Having several early stated will dilute the impact of IA and NH who will demand early votes per their tradition. One of our biggest problems is having most of the candidate drop out so early after only 5% of the delegates have been determined. Perhaps with six primaries early any viable candidate should win some delegates some where. The small states first is a good idea because it allows candidates to run in these states less expensively that in larger states.

I think super delegates are a good idea since all of these guys have the ability to get elected anyway. Having them automatic allows more rank and file democrats to be elected to delegate positions, which is why the automatic delegate system was instituted in the first place. One change I would make is to eliminate the former DNC chairs and add unsuccessful president and vice-president candidates.

Proportional delegate allocations is the backbone of our system and should be kept pretty munch as is. I think we should eliminate the 15% rule which would harden the system slightly. We definitely should not be considering a return to the hideous winner take all system.

As far as IA and NH are concerned it would be good if the lost their automatic primacy but I expect that it might be difficult to get it done. More small early states in the early period would soften their effect and would allow some of the candidates who don’t stand much of a chance I IA could play in NM or ID instead.

There is really nothing undemocratic with caucuses and for small and moderate sized states having one event to start the state party process and the national nomination process is a pretty good idea. Caucuses are mostly open so an argument can be made that they are more democratic that a closed primary. Also this is a state decision and adding an early primary to a state election schedule is a major cost to the state and local governments who have to pay for the primary. Caucuses are party meetings which are fully paid for by the parties. My state (Minnesota) is a caucus state and we did have trouble in the Democratic Party handling the large crowds but it was handled. The state legislature has been talking about having a presidential primary as well as caucuses for state party business. I am personally opposed to this and the Republican Party will absolutely refuse to select delegates in a primary. In our system we take a preference poll and people who are not interested in the state party stuff and sign in and cast their ballot and leave. Our delegates are apportioned by the balloting and not by the standings of the delegates elected at the caucus.

Unknown said...

Im not sure about other states but in Iowa, if your candidate isn't viable your are given the chance to support someone else.

QueenTiye said...

1. Keep the superdelegates.
2. Proportional voting by populace NOT by congressional district.
3. Allocate ONE elected delegate per district in addition to proportional allocation. This would be a delegate who runs, just like an official, with a pledge to support a particular candidate AND the issues of the district.

So doing would force candidates to fight for both rural and urban delegates - as rural elected delegates would outnumber urban delegates, but state delegates would most easily be won by focusing on urban centers.

4. Require states that hold caucuses to give state holidays on caucus day, so that a majority of people have opportunity to participate.

5. To compliment the early states strategy, create a bunch of smaller "super Tuesdays." First Tuesday in February, March, and April should run all the remaining contests, except for states that prefer to be late.

6. Student Primary in March - give students the option of voting in state primaries or as students in a student primary

7. Internet straw poll: Provide registered party members the option to obtain a member login that allows them to vote online - to give a further read of democrat member votes (as opposed to influence of Operation Chaos and the like). This is non-binding, but gives superdelegates a guide for how the party feels.

8. Adopt range voting or instant run-off voting methods for primaries, which mirrors the caucus process in eliminating non-viable votes and allowing every vote to count toward a viable candidate.

dsws said...

* "Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?"

Spell out not only what the state parties have to do in order to have a fully acceptable delegate-selection process, but also what the alternatives are. Don't even call them punishments. Just have a default that happens if a state can't be bothered to do it right. But also, see the next one:

* "How can we improve proportional allocation?"

Have early states be proportional under the existing system, have the last states be to winner-take-all, and have one or two gradations in between. That way it's not such an advantage to be first, and thus not such a matter of contention.

* "Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?"

"Always" is a long time. For the next few election cycles, yes, keep it. The tradition of participation that those states have is valuable.

* "Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?"

Yes. Have the first "ballot" not technically be a matter of delegates casting votes at all.

* "66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?"

See above: those thresholds in the proportionality system will affect when states decide to have their primaries or caucuses.

* "Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?"

Yes. Strength of preference matters too. A willingness to sit through a long process shows something, i.e. provides useful information about the will of the electorate.

* "Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea -- would it be possible for voters to express 'preference' so that if their candidate isn't viable they can vote for one who is?"

Ideally, we would use full Condorcet voting. Realistically, maybe have the threshold start low and creep up as the season goes on.

AnotherSuggestion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

The reason Hillary didn't win is: she didn't play by the rules. I don't mean that in the negative sense. I mean she didn't work the system right. (See this excellent explanation.)

After 1968, when the "will of the people" was "thwarted" by Democratic party "bosses" (I put those all in quotes because the "will of the people" elected Nixon, and apparently was not what 1968 Democratic activists said it was), the party revised its rules to take the power away from the party establishment.

The party first refocused delegate selection to primaries, the ultimate democratic selection process. Unfortunately, primary voters chose unelectable candidates. So the decision was made to put some of the process back in the hands of "the experts." Primary delegates were to be awarded proportionally, eliminating the possibility of a runaway by any candidate either electable or unelectable unless there was no serious competition.

Secondly, caucus processes were set up in many states. These were controllable by those who worked the system.

Thirdly, where there was a close race, superdelegates would be called on to make the decision for the best interests of the party.

So this, in toto, was the system Clinton was faced with. She completely misplayed it.

If primaries were still winner-take-all, Clinton would have the nomination. Being that they are not, the only explanation for Clinton's approach has to be an assumption that she would have no competition. That was an ignorant, arrogant decision which cost her the nomination. As many people have said, it was no doubt motivated by her sense of entitlement. But it had to have been confirmed by the people around her - which means she had failed to include in that circle anyone who could have told her something different.

That she made no effort in the caucus states confirms my opinion. Having missed that, and finally realized she was in trouble, she began to count on the superdelegates. And it might have worked, except for two things: Obama ran a populist campaign, which did not produce enough votes in the big states but produced enough supporters nationally that the superdelegates were restrained from handing the nomination to Clnton; and Clinton's behavior turned superdelegates off.

And there you have it.

What the current system has done is not democratize the selection of the nominee, but made it possible for a new machine to replace an old one simply by learning to manipulate the system more effectively. That is what Obama's people did.

You may think that means we may have ended up with an unelectable candidate. But I think it means that we have avoided selecting a candidate who is not innovative and does not think things through clearly. Assuming Obama's people don't succomb to sudden senility, I see no reason why they can't do in the general what they did in the nomination fight - particularly against a far weaker candidate than Clinton.

But if anyone thinks Obama's nomination means the end of the heyday of political consultants, they're wrong. It's the end of the heyday of stupid consultants. And may foreshadow the end of the heyday of stupid politicians, stupid politics and stupid governance. That depends on what kind of people Obama's people are. As to that, we'll have to wait and see.
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Trevor Holness said...

Given the mess that we witnessed, any system should be a simple as possible.

Each state gets 1.5 delegates per congressional district (1 committed delegate and one super delegate). Committed delegates are apportioned according to popular vote. Super delegates continue to be free to choose their candidate. Sitting president (or head of the DNC if there is no siting Democratic president) gets a super delegate vote to bring the total number of delegates to 653, so you need 327 delegates to win.

Run the contests over the course of three or four months. Have voting occur on the last Tuesday of each month. Each month will have an equal number (roughly) of delegates available. Rotate when the contests are run every four years (if you voted in January one year, you vote in February next time, then March, etc)

Anyone who breaks from the dates loses all of their super delegates and half of their elected delegates.

Keep the caucuses. Don't like them, but it will be hard to get states to move from them. However, get rid of Texas-style caucus/primary hybrids. Choose one or the other.

I like the idea proposed that you must be a registered Dem to vote, and that you close registration 60 days prior to the primary/caucus. Open this up to independents too.

This system has flaws, but I think it's better than what's currently being used

spavis said...

"Should we scrap the superdelegate system?"
-- No, just reduce the percentage. ~750 probably didn't seem like a lot out of ~4000 but in a close contest it obviously is. They should increase the number of pledged delegates to give the supers less influence.

"How can we improve proportional allocation?"
--I don't think that was a big problem. I think not having a winner take all system is better to judge relative support.

"Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?"
--it'll be tough now that they know they'll get seated at 50 no matter what. maybe the DNC could deny rogue states funding? everyone wants to go first so it's going to be tough to make everyone happy.

"Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?"
--it'll be a hard tradition to break. as long as there are a group of states close together at the beginning the provide a balanced look at the electorate it'll be okay.

"Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?"
--The DNC should change the charter to make pledged delegates truly pledged at least through the first vote unless the candidate specifically releases them for some reason. e.g. Barack may have received the Michigan delegates but because of the controversy chose to release them knowing most would vote for him anyhow.

"66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?"
--I agree with dmx and mim. super tuesday needs to be less super and the calendar smoothed out. states should get a delegate bonus for going on the same day as another state (up to say 5 states and penalized after). and states should be penalized if they come more than 2 or 3 weeks after the last primary. but really the DNC is going to catch more flies with honey on this one. the DNC should create regional primaries with a group of around 2-5 states every 1-2 weeks. Either by region, population, interest (eg farming). That way each state will have more of a voice for their interests and their type of voter because there will be more states voting. Maybe NY and CA can vote together representing the big liberal states. PA OH and IN can vote together as the rust belt states. etc. The DNC needs to find incentives to group states together and tighten up the calendar. once they can agree on state groupings they can rotate them in the calendar or by a lottery.

"Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?"
--IMO caucuses provide a chance for smaller communities to interact and have their voices heard and are much cheaper so should still be left as an option. It should really be a state decision. If the state can make the caucus fair and open and the legislature could encourage local business or public transportation to support getting out to vote, then there's no reason the DNC should deny that option to a state.

"Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea -- would it be possible for voters to express 'preference' so that if their candidate isn't viable they can vote for one who is?"
--I'd lower it from 15 to perhaps 10 at least in early races. There was a huge field this year and a lot of people got weeded out in the first race. If candidates drop out later they can always endorse so I don't think it'd fracture the delegate assembly too much.

It was tough to stick to the rules this year because Hillary pushed the FL/MI situation. If the DNC could have a sliding scale of punishment going from 100% to 75% to 50% to 25% depending on the infraction I think it would be easier for them to hold the calendar.

Unknown said...

- Modified Pri/Cau (Registered Dems & Inds only)
- Instant Run-off (15% threshold)
- Proportional Allocation
- First 4 Tuesday (IA, NH, SC, NV) [Jan]
- 5 rotating 10-state Super Tuesdays (1/month)

Karen Anne said...

I like caucuses. Being from New England, they remind me of town meetings. I think they should stay. They have been fine until you know who started dissing them because she wasn't organized to win them. Which is another reason for keeping them, they tell you which candidate can organize.

Superdelegates should go, except for the Pres, VP, and former nominees for same. Those few people deserve a given say. The rest are undemocratic and contribute to uncertainty and dragging stuff out.

There should be enough time between the convention and the general for campaigning, just in case.

The schedule has to be more evenly spaced out in time.

Iowa and NH don't get to go first all the time. I would suggest 4-5 days at least a few weeks apart on which a bunch of states vote. I would distribute the states into each bunch so there was diversity of the voters. I would like geographical diversity as well, but I don't know how that would affect low funded candidates in terms of managing travel. Once the states are grouped, it rotates in following elections.

Debates run and moderated by the League of Women Voters.

Do not go to winner take all, which is undemocratic.

If a state does not follow the national rules, it gets half the pledged delegates.

I am not too worried about pledged delegates bolting. It hardly ever happens. Maybe the national campaigns should have to approve them? Or at least mark on the ballot which the campaign approves.

James said...

*"Superdelegates" should not be allowed to vote during the nomination process, but allowed to attend and vote on platform issues.

*Delegate allocation needs to be improved with "bonus" delegates being eliminated. Democrats are Democrats if they are in Utah or Illinois.

*States violate the rules because of the unfair hold Iowa and New Hampshire have on the nominating process. I proposal 5 regional primaries containing 10 state each and the territories and DA being distributed within one of the primaries. The primaries will be held one week apart meaning from the first vote cast till the last is six weeks. The only states I see having a problem with this is Iowa and New Hampshire.

* The language within the DNC needs to stronger in the matter of Pledged Delegates to support their candidate. State Law should not be an option since it is not within the states authority to force a policy on a political party.

*States can continue to have caucuses, but they must also have a primary and no more then 1/3 of the delegates can be alloted from the caucus with 2/3 coming from the primary. If a caucus does not have at least a turnout 1/3 the size of the primary then those delegates will be alloted by the primary results.

* The 15% threshold would be maintained.

This is my plan.

MichiganDem said...

I don't mind some states being earlier than the others since a national primary would diminish the influence of smaller states. However, there should not be some states having the privilege forever. Keep the early states rotating.

I am also concerned that the primary process is so long that the later the states matter less. Make the schedule more compact. I like Senator Nelson's rotating regional primary idea.

James said...

I just want to mention reasons caucuses are good and bad.

I think the main reason states what a caucus is because it is a good party builder. It gives the state party thousands of names, phone numbers, ect.

The main negative it is undemocratic. Not everyone can show up. I don't buy for a second that it rewards the most dedicated members of the party... many people can't show up but are extremely dedicated and care deeply for the party.

So while I'd prefer to abolish caucuses completely, I understand why states want it... thats why my compromise of states having a caucus and a primary. I know Texas as a disaster, but that was because it was poorly ran.

but if people are dead set against a primary/caucus for states that chose to do it that way, I'd settle for just a primary, but a caucus alone is undemocratic.

edscottwy said...

I really like the proportional allocation, since it ensures that low populated rural areas have a say and don't get overrode by the votes placed in large population centers. I think that shortening the primary season is all that really needs done.

Adam said...

Smallest state first, biggest state last, everyone else in order in between.
Double elec. votes for dems abroad and have PR vote with them.
Keep caucuses, no "party loyalty oaths."
Keep supers - don't blame them just because this was a close race

Larry Parker said...

No Caucuses.
No Superdelegates.
No Delegates!

Just Primaries only. Cumulative vote total leader is the winner and officially becomes the nominee without pissing away millions on a needless Convention.

Markus said...

*"Should we scrap the superdelegate system?"
Yes! As we have seen, they are too confusing if the race is closed, and they are totally unnecessary if the race is over relatively soon.

* "How can we improve proportional allocation?"
I think it's fair the way it is.

* "Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?"
Keep up the 50% penalties, but decide much earlier, like the '*+# evil Republicans.

* "Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?"
I think it's fine, this schedule has evolved traditionally.

* "Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?"
Good point, this could be fixed in a party rule.

* "66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?"
Agreed, the schedule is less than perfect.

* "Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?"
What's more democratic than a caucus? Just because one candidate thought she didn't need the votes doesn't make them outdated.

* "Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea -- would it be possible for voters to express 'preference' so that if their candidate isn't viable they can vote for one who is?"
No, I think voters (just like their elected officials) should make their best possible decision. They can chose to vote for a candidate/ issue that seems doomed to make a point, or they can pick among the most likely candidates the one they prefer.

Dixonblog said...

This would be a tall order, but it might actually work.

(1) amend the constitution to get rid of the Electoral College. The EC is the epitome of "undemocratic"...

(2) amend the constitution to create a nonpartisan primary system. Each state would hold an open primary. At the end of all state primaries, the 3 candidates with the most votes proceed to the general election.

(3) amend the constitution to implement "Instant Runoff Voting" (AKA Ranked Choice Voting) for all Presidential, Senate, and House General Elections.

Problem solved, time to go home.

Stephane MOT said...

SDs: the number should be known from the start. It's amazing to see a fixed number of delegates and a fluctuating numer of superdelegates. The ratio should not exceed 10% with a minimum of 2 per state.

Votes : the same system everywhere. Direct democracy one person one vote.

Calendar : 6 months is insane. 3 seems appropriate for a good candidate "crash test". Fewer dates, never one day devoted to fewer than 3 states.

MindlessMissy said...

Just Use The Republican Model ...

Letters from Ralph said...

Democrats first principal is fairness. Two states haveing a permanent position of privilege is not fair. Scarp the Iowa and New Hampshire privilege.

Rob Goodspeed said...

Here's a summary of reforms proposed to congress.

Unknown said...

regional caucus' or primaries break the US into 4 or 6 quadrants and rotate it each election year

Tokar said...

1) No, no need to scrap it. It did not defeat the democratic process as everyone was projecting it would"

2) I thought the current allocation was fine. The allocation of delegates is based on voting records from previous elections.

3) What do you mean "in line"? If by "in line" you mean help maintain the rules so states don't break them, then just hold a national primary, or six regional ones like Gov. Rendell proposed, so no state feels tempted to move their primary.
However, I think the way this particular primary turned out will probably not tempt states to move their primaries in the future. Heck, PA was about to move their primary to February or something, but they shot it down in August (2007) and they probably feel awesome about that.

3) Unfortunately, there will always be the case with IA and NH. The democratic party is all about traditions at least with their primary system, so that is not changing unless there is a big movement to have a national primary.
Besides, I think it is a fair idea to have the IA/NH primaries early since it narrows the field significantly, removing those candidates who we certainly KNOW are not viable (e.g. Giuliani, Dodd, Richardson, Thompson, Kucinich, etc.). It not only saves us the time of having to see them run a futile campaign, but saves them a lot of cash since the don't have to endure. HOWEVER, I would prefer that IA would use a PRIMARY system not a CAUCUS.

4) Yeah, set it in the rules.

5) Yes, six regional primaries or a national primary.

6) No, we should not continue to use Caucuses. They are completely undemocratic and unfair.
Just look at the states which either held a primary-caucus (TX) or a caucus with a primary later (WA, ID, NE):
TX PRI: HRC +3.5
TX CAU: BHO +12.5
Diff: -15

WA PRI: BHO +5.5
WA CAU: BHO +36.4
Diff: -30.9

ID PRI: BHO +18.4
ID CAU: BHO +62.3
Diff: -43.9

NE PRI: BHO +2.8
NE CAU: BHO +35.4
Diff: -32.6

The difference is very significant. Just think about it for a second: if every state which used a caucus instead used a primary what would the result be?
Just looking at the delegate splits in WA,ID,NE, since they actually conducted both:
WA: BHO 52, HRC 26 (+26)
ID: BHO 15, HRC 3 (+12)
NE: BHO 16, HRC 8 (+8)
Total: +46
If you instead used the primary result to split the delegates it would look more like:
WA: BHO 40, HRC 38 (+2)
ID: BHO 10, HRC 8 (+2)
NE: BHO 12, HRC 11, Gravel 1 (+1)
Total: +5

Look at the difference! I guarantee that if all those states which held caucuses held primaries, the result on 6/3/08 would have been much different.
Its very simple: every state in November holds elections similar to primaries, so therefore every state in a primary should do the same.

7) If we just scrapped the scheduled primary system and went with either a national primary or a six-regional primary, we would not have to worry about all this crap. 1 day, 1 vote total, 1 winner (or 6 days for a six-regional primary).

Unknown said...

"Should we scrap the superdelegate system?"
-I'm leaning towards 'Yes,' because it doesn't seem quite democratic. But I understand that it also allows regular people to have a seat at the convention instead of elected officials taking the seats. Perhaps the "superdelegates" can still be seated as is but without voting rights.

"How can we improve proportional allocation?"
-I'm not sure. I think right now the Democrats have a good system that I'm hesitant to toy with. It provides a delegate-incentive to actually win a state without winner-take-all.

"Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?"
-50% reduction seems fine. Not 100%. I also liked the idea of it acting cumulatively that someone mentioned above. It would have to be tweaked a little so that a state that was willing to drop to an effective 25% would actually have quarter-votes?

"Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?"
-I think as long as the election isn't over immediately afterwards, it's less of a problem. Adding three small states with diversity helps.

"Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?"
-The campaigns do a good job of practically ensuring that. We only had, I think, two switch, and though I disagree with that action, it wasn't much in the end. Perhaps give the candidates the ability to alter the delegate slate further into the future so that they can remove defectors?

"66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?"
-I think the Republicans were working on a system that I think is fairly reasonable. Pretty much make up something like 5 groups of states (removing the early states) that are created around diversity as much as possible. Both in delegate count and demographics. Then rotate them every four years (1st group goes to last the next cycle).

"Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?"
-I'm tempted to keep them. I would worry that a candidate like Obama might have never been able to break through into the mainstream without the assistance of the caucus format.

"Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea -- would it be possible for voters to express 'preference' so that if their candidate isn't viable they can vote for one who is?"
-Interesting Idea. If it is legal in the state, I'd be willing to accept that. It isn't right for someone's vote to essentially be thrown in the trash.

And any other related issues you want to bring up.
-Any modification of the primary calendar will probably have to be in union with the Republicans. It's my understanding some states have laws that the two primaries must occur on the same day.
-I think any modifications to the calendar must strive for balance. In the early stages of the primary, it should be mostly small states with fewer delegates to give all candidates their chance. I also think "Super Tuesdays" should be avoided in general. Things should be spread out as much as possible (contests every Tuesday with just a couple of states) to make sure small states aren't eclipsed by huge states and to give candidates a chance to campaign everywhere as much as possible.

Unknown said...

From Michael in Minnesota:

Proportional delegate allocations is the backbone of our system and should be kept pretty munch as is. I think we should eliminate the 15% rule which would harden the system slightly. We definitely should not be considering a return to the hideous winner take all system.

I'm glad you called the winner-take-all system "hideous" because that's what it is. I heard so many people say 'if the Democrats did things like the Republicans, the process would have been over quickly'. First of all it's not true. If the Democrats were winner-take-all Clinton would have won, but she wouldn't have earned a majority until the RBC settled the MI/FL issue. Second, it's stupid to give more delegates to a candidate who wins a large state by a tiny margin than one who wins a mid-sized state by a huge margin.

The proportional allocation system is great, and I wish states would implement it in the distribution of their electoral votes (I'm sure that once one state did it a case would come before the Supreme Court that would compel all the other states to do it -- the Supreme Court has reliably come down on the side of democracy and fairness whenever electoral questions come before it.)

There is one minor thing I would change I would make in the proportional allocation system and I present the case of this year's Alamba primary as an example.

Obama beat Clinton by 77,000 votes and ought to have netted at least four or five delegates but he only got two (the split was 27-25). This is because he barely missed the breakpoints in AL-01, AL-02 and AL-07 as well as the 'At large' allocation. We round off allocations for every CD, but that's not a mathematical requirement. We could add the fractional allocations of all the districts and then round off. Add all the numbers in the "Alloc" column. You get Obama 29.352, Clinton 22.648 which rounds off to 29-23 (and damned close to 30-22) which is a better reflection of the will of the Alabama voters than what we actually got.

This happened in a lot of states and it could have been avoided.

By the way, I'm really enjoying reading everyone's comments. Let's keep the conversation going!

Anonymous said...

Why do we need 1 year of campaigning BEFORE 5 months of primary and caucus elections?
That should all be done in 1 month or less. 57 contests, so 11 or 12 a week each week for 5 weeks and be done with it!

Unknown said...

It's time to unite the country.

Democrats need to nominate John McCain for President.

Richard said...

I think that all delegates should be pledged delegates, that they should be apportioned to states based on their percentage of the nationwide popular vote for the democratic candidate in the previous Presidential election cycle, and that they should be awarded proportionally statewide, rather than by congressional district. There should be no viability threshold; if a candidate gets 5% in a state with 20 delegates, that candidate should be allowed to choose one delegate.

Timing of contests is more difficult. Ideally I would like to see Democratic primaries scheduled every Tuesday beginning the first Tuesday in February and ending sometime in May. The earliest ones should be in small states representing diverse populations, building toward larger states later in the season. Perhaps some lottery could be devised to determine the precise order within pre-defined groups of states.

Finally, I believe all primaries should be closed. The purpose of the primaries is for the Democratic party choose our nominee, and it should not be possible for Republicans or people who are not willing to at least declare themselves Democrats to have any input.

Anonymous said...

1) I would not say scrap the superdelegate system in it's entirety. It is a good idea to reward prominent democrats in the party with a voice of their own. However, I do feel that having over 800 of them is a little nuts. If it comes down to keeping superdelegates, then cut down a bit on the number of them to give them a little less power over the whole process

2)I don't see any problem with proportional allocation.

3 + 4)I think that the FL MI rulings will discourage this kind of behavior again, but I would suggest having rotating openers. Interested states could apply and it would rotate every four years allowing any states that feel left out to have their say.

5) Write it into the bylaws governing the process.

6) There are rules stating how early a primary runs. They could just as easily write in rules forcing states to hold their primaries by the middle of April, for example. However, the problem with this is that it kills the amount of time that candidates get for campaigning.

Emit R Detsaw said...

As a non-Democrate I will add my 2 cents. (or a $1.50 worth)

In a way I thought the Texas method was interesting. Partial Primary for the straight up Popular vote, part Caucus for the organization part, and part from the state convention. Afterall, this is for the "Party's" nominee.

I would like to see one of 2 systems used.

1) All States vote on the same day. You have the Federal Election day in November, Have a State Election day in May. Have it so that no candidate can announce, fundraise, or campaign until after January 1. That gives them 5 months to spred the word and participate in debates. None of the States could announce their results until after 24 hours after their poll close. This give them time to verify their results and make provisions for any voting problems (weather, late polling closing due to long lines, etc.) Then the selected candidates would have 5-6 months to campaign for the General Election.

2) Have a system that allows for 5 States to vote every Tuesday for 10 weeks. The order would be set and rotated each election cycle. Having 5 States at a time, and 7 days apart, would give the candidates 1 full day per State to campaign in each State, as well as 2 days for Debates, Town Halls, etc. The order could be set in a variety of ways. Alphabetical, geographical, in order they entered into the Union, etc. But the key would be that they rotate so that no state was always "first".

Of course, any change will take major Election Reform from the Federal Government down to the State level, since teh States have their own rules and quirks.

grantcart said...

1) Scrap the SuperDelegate System

Are you kidding. Right now the Republicans are on their knees praying that they had Super Delegates and proportionality. Their winner take all, pledged delegates (largely) only system has produced Bob Dole the 2nd, plus no clear idea of who their next leader will be.

2) Caucuses

Are caucuses democratic - of course they are - they are more democratic because it asks people not to just check a box but to stand up and be seen and to talk about the issues you want on a platform.

Primaries are to democracy as Big Macs are to cuisine.

For everybody who aregues that primaries are more democratic you are wrong they are simply more convenient. But then again American Idol is even more convenient. So lets eliminate Primaries and Caucuses and just have the folks at American Idol run it.

Who said that democracy should be easy?

Think about that. Isn't it a good thing that the leaders from the parties are chosen largely by a system that gives weight to people who actually give a damn and are willing to sacrifice something for it.

Anyone who argues that caucuses are against the elderly have never gone to a caucus and seen that they are normally filled with the white hair crowd.

And for all the people who are sick or have to work etc, fine for those people have sometype of mail in caucus form, but make it long and inconvenient.

No one said that democracy should be easy.

Shannon S said...


I LOVED the caucuses, but they probably do need to go. Years ago we met in neighbors' living rooms. We had very civil disagreements and engaged in great conversations about issues that concerned us. We did this, because there was so little interest in the primaries that most voters would probably have been happy to pick someone with the most familiar last name rather than a candidate they were actually familiar with.

Times have changed. Due to the growing number of informed and concerned voters, caucuses have been moved to large public facilities. Instead of three hours in an evening with tea and cookies (and maybe wine), the process takes a full day. Weariness and impatience sets in for many. And one long day leads to another, and another, for those brave enough to sign up for the subsequent phases of caucus process. One person pledges to represent many of his fellow caucus goers at the next phase and has a change of heart, and those who spent a day to enthusiastically support their candidate are unexpectedly and unknowingly disenfranchised. I saw it happen (in favor of my candidate, but still wrong for those on the other side).

Those of us with fond caucus memories, probably need to let go and find new social avenues to commiserate about our political preferences.

RE: time frame

I think the Democratic party has every right to encourage a progression of primaries that allows otherwise disenfranchised voters to be better heard, i.e., Iowa, NH, Nevada SC. I strongly believe that a staggered primary season allows a fairer opportunity to all candidates to campaign, and that a single 'super Tuesday' would be sad for the future of candidates starting out without less money and name recognition. That said, six weeks between individual primaries is a travesty. I personally feel that the process shouldn't run any longer than four months and shouldn't start before January 15.

RE: Winner take all primaries -

Small states should have a voice - proportional allotment of delegates from all states more fairly represents the popular vote - PLEASE don't adopt the Republican model.

Those are my humble opinions. Hopefully the process will be improved in years to come. But, we shouldn't wish away amazing competition between multiple strong candidates.

Pinyan said...

All those people who are saying to have 1 delegate per CD or something of that nature are missing the point. The point of the convention is to have some 4000 devoted Democrats cheering on their nominee. 600 people don't produce the same packed crowd as what we'll see in Denver.

Delegate Count
First, each state+DC gets 3 delegates per elector (1,614).
Then, each state+DC gets a number of delegates based on votes cast for the Democratic nominees for president and governor (~2,000).
Keep some unpledged delegates: Current/former president/VPs (but not losing nominees), current senators and governors, house leadership, and ranking DNC members* (maybe one per state). (~150-200)
Territories get a few delegates to encourage participation. Puerto Rico gets half of what they would get if they were a state (~25), Guam/NMI/USVI get 3, Dems Abroad gets 6.
Total "base" delegate votes: 3800-3900.

Events before January 1 don't count at all. They are ignored completely.^
Events in January count 50%.
Events in February count 80%.
Events in March-April count 100%.
Events in May count 110%.
Events in June count 120%.
By "count", I mean a state slated to receive 36 pledged delegates that starts their process in February receives only 29 delegates. If they don't start until May, they receive 40.

Primaries and caucuses, both open and closed, are acceptable, but Texas has to pick one.
Make it relatively easy for people to get their name in consideration to become a delegate. Soften the affirmative action requirements a bit.

The important part. Split a state's pledged delegates into three types.
A) 10% PLEO. House members can fill this space if they want. All go to statewide winner.
B) 30% statewide. Award proportionally on the statewide vote.
C) 60% district. Split among the congressional districts on the basis of Pres/Gov/Rep vote over the past 4 years. Within each CD, award proportionally.
In states with one or two congressional districts, the SDP can choose to use smaller units (Delaware's counties, Montana's old districts, etc.), but big states use their CDs.
Delegates are awarded to any candidate with at least 10% of the vote in any state or district.

*-There's no way the DNC will remove their own influence.
^-If a state holds an event before January 1 and doesn't do anything after that, they get no delegates because they are considered not to have had an event. Caucus systems are considered to take place on their first day, so if Iowa holds its precinct caucus in December, they don't get credit for waiting until February to hold their county caucuses.

Maybe down the road, I'll see what results this system would've created for this year.

tmess2 said...

Tough questions.

First, I would modify the superdelegate system. I am not sure how much members of Congress and Governors want to have that role. I think we could go replace the current situation with a smaller number (say 75 Representatives, 25 Senators, and 10 Governors). I would then limit the DNC representation to state party chairs and vice-chairs and the organizational representatives. Finally, to compensate, I would double the number of unpledged add-ons. (I would leave the DPLs as). The net effect would be to reduce the number of superdelegates to around 400.

I would change the base allocation to 60% district/40% at-large/20% PLEOs (from 75/25/15 currently). I would then do one-quarter of the at-large on a winner-take-all basis and the remaining three-quarters proportionately (effectively a 60/30/10 split).

I think the calendar will need congressional help to preempt state legislation. My own preference on the calendar would be five windows ( January 10-January 31, February 1-February 29, March 1-March 31, April 1-April 30, and May 1-June 7). States (and territories) would be randomly assigned to the windows -- 6 states in window 1 (none with more than 6 representatives in the House to keep them small), 10 in window 2, 12 in window 3, 14 in window 4, and 14 in window 5. If there is not congressional legislation, I would keep the 50% penalty for those going ahead of time and give a 25% bonus to those who choose to go with a later date (I can see some states choosing a date in window 4 and sticking with it -- getting the bonus if they are drawn into window 2 or 3 and a penalty if they are drawn into window 5.) I am not wedded to Iowa and New Hampshire automatically being in window 1, but with six states in that window I can live with that if it happens.

I think the current system is the best for determing that pledged delegates keep their pledges. Candidates have the right to veto potential delegates that are not loyal. With different states voting at different times, the ability to change if a candidate goes up in flames and refuses to acknowledge that fact is crucial.

I am agnostic about the right level for the threshhold, I can see arguments for lowering it to 10%, raising it to 20%, and keeping it the same.

I would support preferential/single transferrable vote if there was a realistic way to make it work. However, I am not sure that the equipment is in place to do that and it would disrupt the delegate selection schedule since stv can take longer to count.

As far as caucuses, they are not democratic but they are a means of party building and keeping non-party members from influencing the nomination. In some states, you have caucuses because the legislature has not authorized a primary election. Again, without congressional action, I don't know how you would choose.

apissedant said...

Scrap Iowa and New Hampshire. Nevada and South Carolina DO NOT provide balance, and they still come AFTER Iowa and New Hampshire. There is not a single industrial state on the early primary list. There is not a single state that has been severely hurt by lowering tariffs, NAFTA, CAFTA, and outsourcing. These are major policy changes we have had over the last decade or so, and not a single state that actually gets hurt by them gets a real say in the party candidate who will later enforce them. Random early states. Big states and small states alike. The small state idea is ridiculous and stupid. Small states already have a disproportionate say in our national politics due to the senate and electoral votes, this advantage should not be expanded into the primary season. Also, most small states are red states. Look it up, the idea of allowing Republican states to choose the Democratic nominee is astoundingly silly. Barack Obama spent 200 million dollars this campaign season, I think he can afford to campaign in a big state with that. He and Hillary had over 100 million dollars before the first contest, more than enough for a big state competition.

Toss-up and liberal states should be given more of a say. Texas hasn't voted with us in 40 years, so their choice should not mean much. States that have switched back and forth in the past 3 cycles should be given a say. Those are the ones most likely to choose the final winner, so let's give them some more power in choosing the nominee. Liberal states are always supporting us, and their loyalty should be rewarded with a larger delegate allotment. Those states that regularly vote Republican should have the least say. They don't vote for us, so their voice in our candidate should be minimal.

apissedant said...

Why should small states be given a larger say? I see no reason for this. These candidates all had more than enough money to compete in a big state, and the big states deserve representation too. Iowa and New Hampshire law should be challenged in court under section 4 of the Constitution. The Congress has every right to decide when Iowa and New Hampshire vote, and Iowa and New Hampshire have no right to decide how any other state votes. These laws are ridiculous.

dwhs said...

Paul Bradford: Please tell me that you were being sarcastic and it just went over my head. You said:

"I'm sure that once one state [had proportional electoral college voting] a case would come before the Supreme Court that would compel all the other states to do it"

Uh... Maine and Nebraska already split their EC votes. Haven't seen a Supreme Court Case on it yet.

"the Supreme Court has reliably come down on the side of democracy and fairness whenever electoral questions come before it."

Like Bush v. Gore?

TROLL said...

Superdelegates were initially created to compensate for the pendulum swing away from the party regulars that occurred after the '68 convention. There is no good reason to silence the party regulars. If you remove them, they will be attending as regular delegates, disenfranchising, in effect, the grassroots support their elimination would be designed to protect.

The proportional primary system needs to be addressed. While the race went into June, some pundits, declared right after Super Tuesday, that, given the string of caucus states that followed, there was no way for Clinton to catch Obama under the current system. I'd propose a split system. Proportional distribution on the district level, but a winner take all approach for the statewide delegates.

A delineated schedule of sanctions, whatever it may be, should work. If the states know what they are losing going in, they are less likely to jump rank. That said, there should be a provision waiving sanctions if a state legislature moves the primary over the objection of the state Democratic party. Note that this was NOT the case in either state this year.

Traditions are becoming all to rare in everything these days. I have expressed the dislike of a system that lets a handful of people in Cedar Rapids decide who will be my party's candidate, but this can be mitigated by other means.

The delegates who are selected in primaries and caucuses are hand picked by their respective campaigns. Locking them into a mandated vote seems redundant. That said, they are also committed to the party, and should be able to change their opinion based on later information. Otherwise, why have delegates at all?

I think everyone would agree that the scheduling of the primaries needs improvement over this year. However, given the local nature of scheduling primaries, there is only a limited amount of leverage the National committee has. Guidelines could be tied to sanctions, if they are established early enough.

In many ways, caucuses are more democratic than primaries, as they allow an airing of positions in close proximity of the actual voting. It is not the fault of the caucus process that Clinton mishandled them so badly.

The viability threshold should be lowered, perhaps as low as half of what it is now. That would help legitimate candidates who might have trouble getting 'traction' in an early state to still have an opportunity to sustain their candidacy without opening the door to the fringe candidates. This would also remove the need for any second choice option some support.

Finally, can we get off the popular vote bandwagon? When the voting is spread over five to six months, accumulating totals of votes is ludicrous. Given how situations change so rapidly, popular vote total should only come into play if we ever go to a national primary day.

Josh Putnam said...

Great discussion so far.

Rob Goodspeed's comment gets the ball rolling, but here is a look at how some of the other plans out there look, including the Ohio Plan the GOP will be discussing at their convention this summer.

In the end, big changes will be difficult to come by simply because of the competing interests involved. Smaller changes (ie: a revamping of the caucus system) or a movement to a true national primary are more likely (not to mention more realistic).

apissedant said...

with the exception of the complaint on the proportional allotment, I pretty much like your analysis. As far as the proportional allotment, it was Clinton's fault for getting so far behind. He got so far ahead under the proportional system, and the problem was that there just were not enough primaries left. If a football team is ahead by 8 touchdowns at the half, you don't start making touchdowns count for double, or complain about how the scoreboard works... you realized you screwed up the first half, and now you're going to lose.

Henderson said...

YES, “Democratic Strategist” Bob Beckel admits he helped create a terrible superdelegate system. Make the system work like the general election...winner take all in each state. Get rid of caucuses. Primaries should be open to all voters. States should vote when they want to. States rights should be honored. If super Tuesdays happen, they happen. That is the excitement of primaries. Voters through their state representatives should select when their primaries take place. I don't want to be told when to vote.

Unknown said...

New rules:

1. No Clintons. Ever. Period.

2. Any candidate behaving in a way that is even remotely Clinton-like is immediately disqualified and expelled from the party.

3. States may individually choose whether to hold a primary or a caucus, but any states electing to hold a caucus are required to certify popular vote totals the will be included in any popular vote tally. The certified totals should not be a straight count of caucus goers, but an extrapolation of that data so as to reflect the probably result had the state held a primary instead of a caucus.

4. Puerto Rico does not get a primary/caucus, unless/until it is able to vote in the general election. Any other entities that cannot vote in the general election(Democrats Abroad, etc.) similarly are not permitted to have a say in the primary process.

5. The order in which the states vote is randomized for each primary season.

6. No two states may hold their primaries/caucuses on the same day, and there will be exactly two days (no more, no less) between each individual contest, thereby allowing the candidates the opportunity to spend time in every single state in the process, as opposed to forcing them to focus only on the larger states as the current process does. There will be no more "super Tuesday".

7. The earliest date a primary may be held if February 1. Therefore the primary dates will be 2/1, 2/4, 2/7, 2/10, 2/13, etc., until all states have gone.

8. Superdelegates may still exist, but should represent no more than 10% of the total delegate vote.

9. Individuals are no longer required to vote for a single candidate. Instead they may construct a priortized list of any candidate in the field. Then each voter's first preference is counted as their vote. Anyone voting for a candidate who fails to meet the 15% viability criteria at this point will then have their vote rolled over to their secondary candidate (or if the second one also failed to meet the thtreshold, then it goes to their third preference, and so on). Voters are not required to indicate anything beyond their first preference, but if they do not (or if all their choices are non-viable), then their votes do not roll over to any of the more viable candidates.

10. Individuals on any party committees may not express preference for any running candidate. If they do, they are expelled from the committee and replaced with a neutral member of the party.

11. Harold Ickes will be expelled from the party. Because he sucks.

M.R. Goode said...

1. Scrap super-delegates or reps, senators, govenors, former pres or candidates only.
2. Allocation seemed fine.
3. 50% penalty to all.
4. Small staes must go first to allow underdog chance.
5. Already thought they were supposed to vote in "good conscience".
6. Need to smooth out for sure. Maybe something regional and rotating. No gaps in process.
7. Caucuses are great for party building, liked the Texas prima-caucus.
8. 15% Viable okay.
9. Need closed primary (dems & ind). Need to figure a way to eliminate Republicans in our primary.
10. Need to figure a way to not allow campaign running up massive debt expecting to be bailed out.

apissedant said...

We might as well start the primaries for 2012 now. If there are no rules on when states vote, then the states will all compete for first contest. There has to be a rule. Anarchy is not an option.

apissedant said...

SMALL STATES ARE 90% REPUBLICAN. WHY WOULD WE WANT REPUBLICANS CHOOSING OUR NOMINEE? Deleware, Washington D.C., Rhode Island, and Hawaii are the only liberal small states. There are a few that occasionally lean liberal, but almost all are Republican. Candidates can compete just as easily in a "big" state. Especially since these, "small states" are decided based on population, and not on territory. It is cheaper and easier to compete in Connecticut than it is to campaign in Alaska.

RWD said...

If the DNC wants to ban caucuses and require primaries, then the DNC will have to come up with the money to pay for the primaries. That is a major reason why states have caucuses. In Kansas, the GOP-controlled legislature refused to fund a primary. Thus, both parties held caucuses instead.

Wouldn't the DNC rather spend the money on winning elections, rather than holding them?

RWD said...

"Make the system work like the general election...winner take all in each state."

That's a terrible system, and it's the reason Bush won in 2000. We should change it for the GE and definitely not use it for the nominations.

Felicia said...

My only suggestion is to get rid of Superdelegates! They serve no purpose.

Unknown said...

queentiye said:

8. Adopt range voting or instant run-off voting methods for primaries, which mirrors the caucus process in eliminating non-viable votes and allowing every vote to count toward a viable candidate.

I think it's a superb idea to allow voters who prefer a non-viable candidate to get a vote that actually counts. In caucuses the problem is resolved, there are many ways we could resolve things in a primary setting; but, somehow, the DNC has to get the word from activists (like the ones on DCW????) that the time for modern democracy has come.

Eventually, of course, it would be great if these procedures were implemented for general elections -- but I suspect that the Democratic Party will have to lead the way.

The Numantine said...

Give superdelegates 1/2 votes.

Ban Super-Tuesdays. Give a delegate penalty if 4 or more States schedule primaries/caucuses on the same day.

Increase the delegate penalty for early voting Jan-March States and bonus delegates for States voting in April-June.

Either give Puerto Rico 1/2 delegates or give the other territories full delegates. After all, unlike Puerto Rico, AS, VI and Guam actually have Democratic Parties.

Delegate penalty for States that allow Republicans to participate in Democratic Primary.

Keep proportionality, but no even delegate CDs.

No regional primaries. They benefit regional candidates.

Remind the media that it's the delegates and NOT the popular vote that matters.

Embrace the diversity of the caucus/primary system.

Vote by mail as we do in Oregon.

Offer to make Cuba a State and give Florida its independence.

apissedant said...

the numantine,
If we're getting rid of Florida, can we drop Texas and Alaska too?

Unknown said...

rob goodspeed,

Thank you for leading me to this excellent website. The Secretaries of State make a convincing argument that caucuses and primaries should be spread out evenly over the course of the five month primary season. It's good to know that there's bipartisan support for reform. Clearly, one of the biggest problems with the current system is the fact that it's "frontloaded". In fact, (any Hillary supporters out there will be interested in this!) I believe that one of the chief reasons Sen. Clinton lost is that the primaries were frontloaded.

How do I come up with that? Well, let's consider the fact that Sen. Obama had excellent press in the beginning of the primary/caucus season but around the time the campaigns in Texas and Ohio got underway things started to turn against him (and in favor of Clinton).

Let's look at the stats: During the first 47 days of the race, Obama won 53.30% of the pledged delegates (even when you count MI and FL at half-strength) and Clinton won 46.51%. Then, in the remaining 105 days of the campaign, Clinton won 51.99% of the vote to Obama's 48.01%. A simple algebra equation demonstrates the fact that if the primaries had been evenly distributed instead of frontloaded, Clinton would have won the majority of pledged delegates by a tally of 1714.5 to 1693. Presumably, the superdelegates would have made a different decision if she'd taken the lion's share of pledged delegates. She might even be our nominee today (Yikes!)

Thank God the primaries were frontloaded! ;-)

Even though I'm an Obama supporter I realize that he dodged a bullet this year -- but if we actually care about democracy we ought to support reforms that spread the delegate selection process out in a more sensible manner.

apissedant said...

Obama really didn't put forth much of an effort at the end. Also the states involved were less friendly to him. You are correct about the good press coverage though. Had he not won South Carolina and Iowa at the beginning, he would have been killed. Remember the national polls at the beginning? He was getting crushed by double digits nationally, those two wins shot him up, plus the sort of back door win in Nevada.

Stephane MOT said...

The IA / NH thing is an obsolete tradition, but it's better to start with a few non heavyweight states (keep these two plus one randomly chosen among the small to medium states every 4 years).

This first warm up round should ensure diversity, but the total allocation of delegates should follow a rule similar to 45% end of 1st month, 80% end of 2nd, 100% end of 3rd.

When I wrote direct democracy one person one vote (above), I meant primaries and delegate allocations the state level only.

Unknown said...

Here's my observation. All the posters on this thread are doing an excellent job of expressing their own ideas but not such a good job of responding to other people's thoughts. C'mon! We really should try to get into a discussion about these things. We're only talking about the future of democracy! And the people here on DCW are actually people who give a poop.

tokar (12:07pm) wrote an excellent 7 point analysis and concluded:

7) If we just scrapped the scheduled primary system and went with either a national primary or a six-regional primary, we would not have to worry about all this crap. 1 day, 1 vote total, 1 winner (or 6 days for a six-regional primary).

I see what you mean, but don't you think there's a big difference between a 1 day national primary and a series of primaries spread out over time? The advantage of spreading things out is that the country actually pays attention for a significant period. Currently, we vote for about five months -- that's about the length of the football season -- and heaven know we pay attention to THAT!

shawn (12:40p),

You really have a great sense of humor. You were joking, weren't you?????

fidelus21 (1:13p) said:

1) I would not say scrap the superdelegate system in it's entirety. It is a good idea to reward prominent democrats in the party with a voice of their own.

I might agree with you if the prominent Democrats actually expressed a voice of their own. Some did, of course, but so many flocked to Clinton in the early stages or to Obama in the later stages that I'm convinced that the majority of superdelegates made endorsements based on political considerations rather than on honest preference. And a huge number of them simply hid out until the choice was obvious (what happened on June 3rd was 'herd mentality' at its worst.)

The voters, on the other hand, voted for whomever they liked whatever the consequences.

Unknown said...

david (3:20p),

I don't think I was actually being sarcastic but I did bend over backwards to be provocative.

You say: Uh... Maine and Nebraska already split their EC votes. Haven't seen a Supreme Court Case on it yet.

You're absolutely right! But we haven't had an actual example of the EC votes splitting -- and besides, awarding EC votes by CD isn't the same as awarding them proportionally. If a big state like Texas or California adopted a scheme where they split proportionally on the state level we'd see some attention brought to the matter -- and, yes, I do believe that there would be a court challenge if one state went in that direction and the others didn't. The minority party in any state could effectively argue that they'd been disenfranchised by winner-take-all.

Since you bring up Bush v. Gore... if we'd had proportional allocation in the 2000 GE (let's set aside the 'viability' requirement) the result would have been Gore 264, Bush 263, Nader 11. (Yes, I wasted several hours figuring this out). Nobody would have gotten a majority BUT we wouldn't have landed the election in the lap of the House of Representatives, either. What would have happened is that Mr. Nader would have spoken to Mr. Gore and traded some power in the Gore administration in return for 11 Electoral Votes.

An Al Gore administration, tilted slightly toward Ralph Nader, would have been infinitely preferable to a George W. Bush administration tilted toward the religious right.

You, like most of the posters on this thread, actually seem to know what you're talking about so I would be delighted to see a response to this post.

Unknown said...

> The advantage of spreading things out is that the country actually pays attention for a significant period.

No, the real advantage is that it gives the candidates an opportunity to visit more states. If there were only a single national contest, the candidates would only ever visit a handful of states with the largest populations. If they were regional contests, then they would only visit the largest states in that region.

For example, both Obama and Clinton spent time on Montana and South Dakota. If a national/regional system was used, that would never have happened. There'd be no reason for candidates to visit any of the smaller states.

Unknown said...

josh putnam,

You've done an excellent job with your 'site! I am SOOOO impressed with the level of intelligence on this thread.

Do you agree with me that it's an ecouraging sign that the Secretaries of State have taken an interest in this issue? As you say, it's very hard to make fundamental changes; but the fact that a bipartisan group of state officials who actually have some power is looking into this matter gives us some hope for improvement. It also points the way to make changes without federal intervention.

That said, I had a ball this year! Democracy, warts and all, is such an engrossing study.

DNELL said...

I'm not democrat nor republican just the typical middle of the road voter. I think thats why democrats haven't won more elections. This is a democracy and super delegates should be voting based on their state popular vote. Super delegates should be representatives of their state or city popular vote. If Clinton won any state by vote then this should be followed by super delegates regardless of the way they feel.

Hate to say but looks like a republican is getting back in office.....

suzihussein22 said...

Should we keep SDs? Some of them. What about just the Senators and Governors? Nobody should be able to buy into it.

Should we change the primary calendar? Yes.

Start with 5 states on the 3rd Thursday of Feb. Make 3 of them states that "go Rep." Then 2 weeks later, start having 5 states run primaries every Thursday. Rotate all states every 4 yrs.

Why Thursday? I think more people would come out if it was later in the week.

Keep the PDs committed to the outcome unless their candidate drops out and doesn't endorse someone.

Encourage voters to write-in a candidate if they're not confident about the choices that are on the ballot. The current system seems a little arbitrary, which is why my husband stays independent.

dmx had a good idea about correlating primaries with the Rep.

apissedant said...

soft, did you read any of the plans that are actually there? There is one or two that I like, that don't preserve the Iowa NH rule. I don't know about your Thursday thing, but other than that I'm on board.

tmess2 said...

There is absolutely no basis for a supreme court case based on differences in how states award electoral votes. The Twelth Amendment makes it quite clear that the selection of electors is a decision for each state legislature.

There is no constitutional requirement that a state even let the votes have a say in the selection of electors. If a state wanted to split electors based on the membership in the state legislatures, that would be completely permitted by the constitution.

The only reason that the Gore case had a federal dimension was the claim that a state (Florida) was not treating all voters in that state equally in violation of the equal protection clause. (The decision to only request a partial recount will go down in history as one of the biggest legal blunders of all times.)

tmess2 said...

One note about closed primaries. The current rules suggest that state parties should try to have closed primaries. However, most state parties aren't willing to undertake the necessary litigation to force reluctant state legislatures to adopt rules authorizing closed primaries.

In my state, even among committed Democrats, I hear reluctance to their choice of primary ballot being recorded, much less a requirement that they register by party. (We have no party registration and do not keep official records of which party's ballot a voter takes during the primary.) Traditionally, there is no support in our legislature for efforts to require party registration.

Basically, every four years, the state party here has to convince the RBC that we have put our best efforts into trying to get some record of party preference of voters and doing our best to make sure that Republicans don't participate in the Demcratic Presidential Primary.

Mike in Maryland said...

Before reading the other comments, here are my thoughts. If some or all my points are repetitious, sorry, but I'll present my thoughts, then discuss later, if necessary.

1. Should we scrap the superdelegate system?

Yes and No. Superdelegates should ONLY be those who have faced election (current Representatives, Senators, Governors, former Presidents and Vice Presidents, etc).

Those who have NOT faced election for their current position should NOT be a superdelegate. That means NO DNC members, NO former DNC chairpersons, etc.

This does two things - current elected officials are more in touch with the needs and thinking of the citizens they represent. Former Presidents and Vice Presidents know better than most what the office of President involves. DNC members (for the most part) are not elected, and can say they know what's going on (and some actually do), but many are completely out of touch with the electorate.

One more thing about SDs - if one participates in any way with a campaign of a candidate ('state chair', finance, organizational, etc., they should be automatically eliminated from being a superdelegate.

All the above measures would reduce the number of SDs by at least 1/2, and the remaining SDs would be more in touch with the electorate, without having an apparent or real conflict of interest in whom they endorse.

2. How can we improve proportional allocation?

Does it need improved? Maybe double the number of CD delegates, but at .5 vote per delegate. Fold the PLEO delegates into the statewide delegates.

3. Is there a way to keep states in line in the future?

Any state that violates the 'primary window' automatically gets a full delegation at the convention (if they want to send a delegation) with ZERO votes for the year in violation, plus a 50% reduction of votes at the succeeding convention, WITH NO APPEAL. If a state violates two 'primary windows' in succession, the penalty would be zero, zero, and 25%.

4. Are we always going to have a situation where Iowa and New Hampshire get primacy over the other states?

This one is somewhat tricky, as it is state law that determines the date of the primary, although the party can hold a caucus on another date if the state primary date is not favorable for the state party.

Ideal would be for the some (but not all) of the smallest states to go first. Those states are (from smallest):
District of Columbia
North Dakota
South Dakota
Rhode Island
New Hampshire
(Besides the above, there are 10 additional states smaller than Iowa.)

Most, but not all, have much lower media costs, so would be better for the unknown, underfunded, candidate to be able to campaign and become viable. If they can get some attention in an early primary, they might be able to, at a minimum, have some influence on the campaign and campaign issues, even if they are not successful in eventually winning the nomination.

The problem with DC is that although it is small population and geographically (67 square miles), it is enormously expensive for media (DC metro area is greater than 5.3 million in population).

For Delaware, the media is centered in Philly, also very expensive.

Alaska presents some problems related to weather and geography, especially if campaigning is in January or February.

Rhode Island's media is mostly from Boston, another very expensive media market, although Providence media might be enough for campaign purposes.

Maybe make a rotating basis of the smallest states (plus DC), and any state that holds its primary in the first five more than two consecutive cycles gets a certain per cent deduction in delegates (10%?, 20%?). Increase the penalty for each consecutive cycle until the state says "Enough!".

5. Is there a way to assure that pledged delegates will vote for the candidate that they are assigned to?

Change the convention rule so that such delegates who want to change must receive the permission of the entire state's delegation to do so, or some other 'check' on the switch. One such situation where a pledged delegates could want to switch is where a candidate becomes untenable for the nomination (such as past or current 'notorious' action that becomes known late in the process), but doesn't drop out, and the delegates switching would be the only way to stop such a nomination.

6. 66% of the delegates were chosen over a fifteen day period and, later, we went six weeks with no primaries at all. Is there a way to 'smooth things out' so that delegates are chosen in a more orderly way?

Award bonus delegates to those states which hold later primaries or caucuses. Set a limit on the number of primaries per month, on a 'first-come, first served basis' type of incentive. Anyone who then presents a plan to hold a primary in an 'oversubscribed' month would be awarded fewer delegates. First late applicant would get 10% fewer, second 20% fewer, etc. This would encourage the states to get their act together in a timely manner without trying to 'outgame' the other states on dates.

Also, if they present a flawed plan that is rejected, they go to the end of the line. All other states get to present their dates and plans. Then the DNC would go back to the revised plans. If the states lose their preferred date, tough. They should have presented a plan that would pass muster in the first place. The rules are somewhat complex, but not impossible to navigate.

Also consider giving some bonus delegates to those state that 'fill' holes in the schedule. Ten bonus delegates to a smaller state would be worth a lot.

7. Are caucuses really democratic? Should we continue to allow them?

Yes, they are democratic, and Yes they should still be allowed. They are similar to the New England Town Meetings, where all concerned citizens participate in the town's business. Those who are interested in participating will make the effort to participate; those who want to complain can do just that - complain. But it doesn't mean we have to listen to the complainers.

Also, they give a means to states to have delegates if the Repigs set the primary date outside the 'primary window' (as happened in Florida [WITH Democratic complicity]) this cycle. The state could have the 'beauty contest' primary as mandated by state law, but the delegates would be chosen per party rules.

8. Is the 15% threshold for viability a good idea -- would it be possible for voters to express 'preference' so that if their candidate isn't viable they can vote for one who is?

The viability threshold should be adjustable, depending on the number of candidates, but not eliminated. The more candidates, the lower the threshold (no threshold if 10 candidates); the fewer the number of candidates, the higher the threshold. With two candidates, the threshold should be in the 25% range.

If, in a 10 candidate field, one candidate gets 5% of the vote, the candidate must make a decision whether their candidacy is viable. The financial backing they receive will help to determine that. It will also be shown in later contests whether that candidate has a message that the voters are willing to consider, and if not, the candidate can withdraw. If they don't, it's the candidate's decision as to whether they continue or not, if they want to go into debt, how they campaign to get the message out without financial support, etc.

Additional -

The rules should reward those states that hold primaries later in the 'primary window' (NOT later than last cycle per current rules). Maybe something like:

January and February - no bonus delegates
March - 10% bonus
April - 25% bonus
May and June - 40% bonus

However, in no case would more than 25 total delegates be added to a state's 'original' delegation. Thus a state like California could only gain 25 bonus delegates, not 148 for holding a primary in June (this year it has 370 pledged delegates - 40% would add 148 for a total of 518).

Any state larger than the 10th smallest state holding a primary earlier than March would get a 10% deduction in delegates.


apissedant said...

Have you seen the movie Recount? It claims that they couldn't request an entire state wide recount because it was forbidden by state law. They required to go to each voting district individually.

apissedant said...

Finally!!! We disagree!!! Almost completely! You posted one rule that is puzzling. You said that with two candidates, there should be a 25% requirement for viability. This seems silly, because with only 2 candidates, that mean if one candidate gets less than 25%, then the other candidate actually gets 100%. Are you sure that's what you want? 0% requirement for a field of 10 is also quite silly. This last time we had 10, and the top three candidates all broke 20% in the first state. There can still be a threshold, though maybe not 15%. Gravel is not a viable candidate even if there are 100 candidates. Many, many, many more complaints... but just thought I'd throw those two out there.

Mike in Maryland said...


You must remember that the threshold is for EACH Congressional District, and separately applies to the state. A candidate could get less than 25% is several CDs in a state, but get a statewide vote of 40% or more. Even with a 15% threshold with this years rules, Clinton lost a district in DC by getting less than 15%, and Obama lost CD-5 in KY by an almost 10-1 margin. Overall, though, it wouldn't have made much difference except in DC (Clinton would not have received 3 delegates, and she also would have lost all 6 from Hawai'i she received). There probably are some others, but they are spread far and wide.

I'd be willing to change it to 25% statewide, and 15% in each CD.

As to a minimum, there already is an effective floor of somewhere around 5% - the delegates are apportioned by whole number, then whoever has the greatest number after the decimal point gets any extra delegate. And remember, I said 0% ONLY when there are 10 or more candidates, then gradually lift it as the number of candidates decrease.

These are not points that I would argue very much about, as I think the front-loading is the much more serious problem, which needs to be addressed very clearly, and very firmly, so that states spread out the vote over the 'primary window'.

New Hampshire and Iowa going first raises a lot of ire from many, but if handled properly, they could be made irrelevant if handled properly. My suggestion is, if they still keep going first, to gradually reduce their delegations until they become laughing stocks with their (by-then) irrelevant beauty contests. At that point, no serious candidate would worry about participating in them unless and until they concede. Granted it would take a few cycles, but cutting them off cold-turkey might make them even more intransigent. The only question is when they would cave - 20%? 30%?


suzihussein22 said...

apissedant-Yes. The Thursday thing is from my retail experience. Us grunts do notice a couple of things. People are out of the house more later in the week and this keeps the people involved from not having to give up so much of their weekend. I didn't think any other's plans were bad or good. I am just wanting to keep this simple, unlike our tax code.

Unknown said...

One thing that I haven't seen discussed is the people who hold multiple roles. For example, there is no way that anyone who holds a paid or senior advisory position on a campaign should serve on the DNC concurrently. Just think how the whole FL/MI process would have played out if Terry McCauliffe (Clinton campaign chair AND former DNC chair who threatened MI the first time they tried to pull this crap) and Harold Ickes (senior Clinton advisor AND member of RBC) were not involved.

I agree that SD, if they were to remain in place, should only be those elected to their positions. However, I believe that another class of delegates, maybe with a half vote, could be some of the other current SDs like the pres and vp of Young Democrats or chair and co-chair of state parties. NO fundraisers, bundlers or 'distinguished party leaders', whatever the heck that means!

I also agree that the primary contests should only be open to Democrats and unaffiliated/independents (I would suggest that same mix for the Republicans as well). Of course, unaffiliated/independents can only vote once! This would be easier if both party contests were held on the same day in each state.

As far as caucuses go, in theory, I believe that they are a good thing. However, I have never lived in a caucus state (east coast/midatlantic area) so I am not familiar with the actual process.

dsimon said...

Paul Bradford: The proportional allocation system is great, and I wish states would implement it in the distribution of their electoral votes (I'm sure that once one state did it a case would come before the Supreme Court that would compel all the other states to do it -- the Supreme Court has reliably come down on the side of democracy and fairness whenever electoral questions come before it.)

While it's off-topic, I think the parenthetical is off. While the Supreme Court has intervened when it comes to individual voting rights (equal populations in districts, race), it has consistently stayed out of many other areas, dismissing issues such as gerrymandering as "political questions."

I don't see a winner-take-all system for electoral votes subject to a successful challenge. After all, Congress itself isn't apportioned that way. If a party wins each district in a state by one vote, that party gets 100% of the representation in Congress despite getting barely 50% of the total vote--and those who did not support that party do not have a claim of "disenfranchisement." They got to vote, but they just lost. I see no reason why that shouldn't apply regarding how a state allocates its electoral college votes too: winner-take-all is not disenfranchisement, it just means one side wins and the other loses.

To see a clever way of adopting a national popular vote system for president without amending the Constitution, see

Mike in Maryland said...

There is a problem with limiting primaries to a single party, or one party and 'Independents' (aka closed, or modified closed primaries).

The rules for a primary are up to state law. The DNC can encourage state Democratic parties to try to change the law to make the primary closed, but the DNC can't enforce it, as it has no vote in the state legislature.

That is one of the reasons I favor keeping caucuses - if the GOP in a state wants to set up primary rules so that mischief can occur in the other party's primary, the Dems in that state have a way out of the problem through a caucus where they can enforce Democratic Party member-only participation.


apissedant said...

"The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators."

The neat thing about the Constitution, that few people realize, is that Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and all the others wrote themselves a back door into doing anything that they wanted as the federal government. There is an exception to pretty much every piece of state power written in the constitution. The question is not "can they do it," but more fittingly, "do we want them to do it."

Mike in Maryland said...

A couple of things I'd like to see Congress do about elections (these are not things the DNC could do for the primaries, nor are they specifically about the primaries, but generally more about the General Election):

1. Declare (the general) Election Day a National Holiday. That would give most people the entire day off for the General Election. Mandate that employees get paid for the day off.

Also, give the states incentives to declare the Primary Election date as a state holiday, and encourage private companies to observe it. Maybe some type of tax incentive?

2. Mandate that election day be a 24 hour process, starting at a uniform time in all jurisdictions, and ending at a uniform time in all jurisdictions. In other words, 6:00 am Eastern, 3:00 Pacific, 1:00 am Hawai'i. Since Friday is the Muslim sabbath, sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is the Jewish sabbath, and Sunday is the Christian sabbath, it makes it a bit tricky trying to do elections on the weekend (my preference). That means it will probably remain on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The only question then would be when to begin and end that 24 hour clock.


Peter said...

The super delegate system:
Cut the number of SDs in half and only rely on people who needs to be re-elected to keep their job - the best way of avoiding back room deals IMO

JayZed said...

Bring back smoke-filled rooms.

bg said...

People who are in need of reelection are the most likely to do what is in their own interest rather than in the interest of the party. The superdelegates should be limited to those who have proven themselves as loyal democrats and face no impending elections to sway their vote.