Here’s an inventive proposal from a Texas state legislator who wants to overhaul how the nation holds presidential primary elections.
Rep. Lyle Larson, a Republican from San Antonio, is tired of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina getting all the attention in every four years. He wants states to rotate the order of their primary dates in order “to ensure that no one state has undue influence on the nominating process,” as he put it in an op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News.
His office forwarded us a letter he recently sent to Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb, hoping to enlist support for the proposal. (They sent the sunglasses above, too.) Larson’s spokesperson said he also sent letters to the chair of the Democratic Party of Arkansas and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office.
It’s a decent point. There’s no rational reason why a few early states should mold the shape of the presidential race, and it’s certainly undemocratic. Why shouldn’t there be a rotation?
On the other hand, if large states were first in line, they’d have an even more disproportionate effect on the outcome of the race. If a candidate won a hypothetical first-in-the-nation primary in Texas or California in February, it would be much harder for their rivals to make up that overwhelming early lead.
And the order of states’ primaries isn’t necessarily the most undemocratic thing about how the system is set up. Why not a national primary? Why not a popular vote, for that matter?
It’s all an academic argument. Radically shaking up the electoral process in some inventive ways would be welcome, at least in my book, but both parties’ apparatuses have evolved around the unwieldy, nonsensical system we have, and neither would be eager to change unless they stood to gain a clear advantage … in which case the opposition party would fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo. Or, maybe, given this freakish election season thus far, both parties are headed towards some sort of wholesale realignment or collapse. But probably not.
Dear Chairman Webb,
Shouldn’t Arkansas have its day to be one of the top three states to select the presidential nominee for each party? What if instead of caucusing in Iowa, the presidential candidates were currently courting voters in Little Rock, and having a discourse on the issues that affect your state? We are proposing a rotation in the order of the states’ primary election dates that would achieve just that.
Enclosed is a copy of an op-ed recently published in the San Antonio Express-News which advocates for a more fair system that will allow the rest of the states to engage in a meaningful discussion with presidential candidates before the primary is all but decided.
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. We look forward to continuing a meaningful national discussion and working with party leaders to review the process by which our parties select presidential candidates.
Cc: State Republican Executive Committee Chairs
State Democratic Executive Committee Chairs