States of confusion


IT'S TIME for the country to stop playing the political equivalent of dominoes every four years when it's time to select presidential nominees.

This year, an ever-increasing number of states have moved up the dates of their 2008 primary elections in an attempt to garner attention and money from candidates. The first votes in the presidential race may be cast in as many as seven states in January, and 29 other states could be done by the end of February.

Instead of this, American voters deserve a system that allows them sufficient time to watch, learn, and make up their minds about the candidates. Sound proposals for a regional primary system have been developed that could ensure this won't happen in 2012 or thereafter.

The National Association of Secretaries of State approved a plan in 2000 that now sits as Senate Bill 1905. The association's plan splits the country into four geographic areas - Eastern, Southern, Midwestern, and Western - and rotates each region to vote first, beginning in March. Subsequent regions would hold their primary elections in April, May, and June. The order would change each presidential election year. New Hampshire and Iowa would retain their early status.

The American/California Plan, which originated in a Petaluma think tank, would start with contests in states with small populations, building gradually in 10 primaries to be held at two-week intervals.

The first contest would be for states with a combined total of eight congressional districts. The second primary would be for states with 16 congressional districts, then 24, then 32, until the last primary, toward the end of June, with a combined total of 80 congressional seats.

The Delaware Plan is similar, but concentrated in four population groups. The 12 states with the lowest populations would vote first, on the first Tuesday in March. A month later, the next larger 13 states would go. In May, another 13 states, ending with the final 12 states in June.

Once the 2008 race is over, the Democratic and Republican committees should tackle reform of this system once and for all. Then the conversation can be about candidates and their positions, instead of who gets to go first in the primary lineup.