Improving the Presidential Nomination Process: Holding All Primaries on the Same Day

G. Stolyarov II
Issue CXL - January 24, 2008
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Originally published on GrasstopsUSA.com.

Given the structure of America’s two-party system, voters most frequently only have a choice between two viable candidates for President in the general elections. Often most voters see this as a choice between the lesser of two evils; they dislike both candidates and vote for the one they think will do the least damage.

            This regrettable state of affairs comes about because the process by which each of these two candidates is chosen is inadequate at representing voters’ actual wishes. The primary/caucus system needs to be modified so that the candidate who receives a given political party’s nomination actually has a preponderance of support among the rank-and-file members of that party. In this and subsequent articles, I will give some suggestions as to how the nomination system for any political party can be rendered fairer and more representative of voter preferences.

            One major problem with the nomination system as it is today is that primaries and caucuses are not held on the same day in all states. Consider a situation where there are three states – 1, 2, and 3 – and three candidates – A, B, and C. A and B are more sharply at odds in their views than A and C, so if A is out of the running, the people who would have voted for him will tend to support C rather than B. The first primary is held in State 1, where Candidate A gets 20% of the vote while B and C each get 40%. A, believing he has little public support and relying on media prognostications of his failure, drops out of the race. The next primary is held in State 2, where, if A had stayed in the race, he would have gotten 40% of the votes while B would have gotten 35% and C would have gotten 25%. Instead, the votes A would have gotten are split among B and C so that at the end B gets 40% of the vote and C gets 60%. Then, still later in State 3, where A’s voter base is even stronger, the primary gives C 51% of the votes while B gets 49% of the votes. If A had stayed in the race, he would have gotten 60% of the votes, B would have gotten 25%, and C would have gotten 15%. But, since A has dropped out, C – having had at least as many votes as any other candidate in each of the three states – wins the party’s nomination.

            For sake of simplicity, assume that each of the three states has a voting population of 100. If all three primaries were held on the same day, then A would have gotten 20 votes from State 1, 40 votes from State 2, and 60 votes from State 3 – for a total of 120 votes. B would have gotten 40 votes from State 1, 35 votes from State 2, and 25 votes from State 3 – for a total of 100 votes. C would have gotten 40 votes from State 1, 25 votes from State 2, and 15 votes from State 3 – for a total of 80 votes. So A has a plurality of support among the party’s members and should have been the party’s candidate in the general election. C actually has the least popular support among the three candidates, but holding the primaries on different days enables him to win the nomination.

            Holding all states’ primaries on the same day will enable the candidate who has at least a plurality of support among members of his party to actually win the nomination. Furthermore, it will be fairer to voters in states where the primaries are currently held later. If a voter in State 2 or State 3 wished to vote for Candidate A in the situation above, he simply would not be able to – because of the outcome of the vote in State 1.

            Even if A would not have won either State 2 or State 3 anyway, it is still necessary to permit his supporters to voice their preference. After all, winning the election is not the sole reason a candidate might have for running. Having a substantial number of votes – but not a plurality or a majority – might mean that a candidate’s platform is sufficiently popular for other candidates to begin paying attention to it. A winning candidate might still wish to apply some of a losing candidate’s ideas so as to secure future support from the losing candidate’s constituency – and also to more accurately align his actions with the wishes of all or most of the people.

            But in order for election winners to find out which ideas actually have a lot of support from minority constituencies, it is necessary for those minority constituencies to be able to vote as they see fit – irrespective of where they live. In our hypothetical scenario, even though A has more support than any other candidate, the actual vote totals will not represent this. Candidate C might think that only 20 of 300 people actually believe in A’s platform; therefore, C might deem it proper to ignore this comparatively small constituency and focus on what he believes to be the wishes of the other 280 voters. If this were to happen, I doubt that C would have an effective, just, or popular administration.

            Rendering all primaries simultaneous will not solve the entirety of the problems with today’s nomination system – but it will go a long way toward doing so.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre,  Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. His most recent play is Implied Consent. You can also view his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.