Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

It Could Be Worse, Maybe

with one comment

I got to thinking last night on Twitter that while it would probably be possible to design a worse system than the one U.S. political parties use to select their nominees, it definitely wouldn’t be easy.

  • We start off with weekly contests in individual states, none of which are representative of the demographics of the nation as a whole. The early states vote in an arbitrary order, but this order stays the same every year.
  • Then, all of a sudden, several states start going all on the same day. Soon after, we have “Super Tuesday,” on which a huge number of states vote. After this the process is expected to be effectively concluded, even though the majority of the states have yet to do anything.
  • Each state generates its own internal processes for selecting a candidate. Some are caucuses, some are primaries; some allow cross-over voting, some don’t; some allow early voting, some don’t; some are winner-take-all, some aren’t. Some of the results are just straw polls that don’t even count. As a result, no outcome in any state is directly comparable to any other.
  • The assignation of delegates is likewise almost totally arbitrary, both in terms of representality at the convention—there’s no direct relationship between delegates and population—but also in terms of the rules for how the delegates are to be assigned within each particular state. Nearly every state allows the vote total and the delegate count to diverge, some quite seriously. Some states bind their delegates to the vote results, others don’t. And then there are a large number of superdelegates who are chosen through other, even more arcane procedures.
  • And the whole process takes two years, with the vast majority of the debates happening months before any votes are cast and almost no debates happening during the time people are actually supposed to be making their decisions. The meaningful voting, Iowa to Super Tuesday, takes place over about a two-month stretch of this span.

This is nuts.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 29, 2012 at 10:24 am

One Response

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  1. Almost any system would be better than this. If I were running a political party I think I would just hold semi-open primaries in Ohio and Florida and pick whomever they both liked best.


    February 29, 2012 at 10:34 am

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