Toward a Fairer Primary System

Toward a Fairer Primary System

Yep, I’m completely onboard with those saying it’s time for the Iowa caucuses to go.

A state that’s 90 percent white having outsized influence on who gets nominated for president? Strike one.

A silly, convoluted system that violates the “one person, one vote” principle? Strike two.

And now this? Bungling the start of the most consequential election in our lifetimes? Handing a wannabe dictator an opportunity to claim the opposition can’t pull off fair elections, so that he can sow conspiracy theories if he’s defeated in November? Strike three.

But let’s not scapegoat Iowa. New Hampshire is just as white and just as influential. Remember, this is the only major political party that can claim to represent Americans of all races and ethnicities. But its primary clearly marginalizes people of color.

It’s completely arbitrary to let these states go first every election cycle. It was arbitrary then, and it’s arbitrary now. The sooner we implement a fairer primary system, the better.

What would be better?

Well, a lot of systems would be better. What if the states most representative of the party nationally got to go first? What if we set up a rotating system that allowed different states to go first in different cycles? Hell, what if we just picked the order of all fifty states randomly out of a hat? Even that has a higher probability of being fairer!

But really, it’s silly that any states have to go first.

Here’s a crazy idea: what if we had a truly national primary, with all 50 states and additional territories voting on the same day, and a ranked choice/instant runoff system?

Imagine that–every American getting an equal opportunity to express their preference for who they want to be president!

There are already a ton of weird, unfair, undemocratic quirks in our electoral system. It’s going to take a lot of work to make them go away (though my book has a plan for how we can realistically fix our electoral system in the next five years). But primaries are different. Primaries just require the major stakeholders of the party to actually decide they want to be fair. There’s nothing stopping either party from making their primary fairer–other than the unwillingness of those major stakeholders to anger those who benefit unfairly from the current system.