The Primary Calendar Is Unfair and We Should Demand Change

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We have reached the magical time of the election cycle when every time I hear the words “Voters in Iowa” I want to scream curse words at the nearest Democratic Party official. In between the curse words would be the message “THE STAGGERED PRIMARY CALENDAR IS UNFAIR TO VOTERS IN LATER STATES!”

There is literally no sensible reason for states to hold primaries on different dates any more. It made sense when communications and transit systems involved stage coaches and hand-cranked printing presses. Today? It’s bullshit.

Yeah, maybe it’s nice for candidates to get to focus on one region at a time but if you’re in a region that votes after Iowa, half of the candidates won’t focus on you ever because they will be off the ballot before you even get a chance think about voting. All because Iowans looked at them and said “Nah.”

Think about it this way: if the party was a retailer selling groceries, it would be making all its national stocking decisions based on what people in Iowa buy. Imagine if no one in Iowa was into tofu so every grocer in America just stopped selling tofu, even in places where tofu historically sells like hotcakes. And all anyone would say is “Tofu didn’t sell in Iowa.” And you’d be like “But this is Maryland. We like tofu. Why can’t we have tofu?” And they’d say “Because it didn’t sell well in Iowa. So we cancelled tofu.”

THAT’S HOW THE PRIMARY WORKS! Iowans decides who the rest of us get to vote for by a process of elimination that has nothing to do with anyone outside of Iowa! Iowans reject candidates and the rest of us never get a chance to vote for them at all! And I’m still mad I never got to vote for Howard Dean because of it!

I’m sure the people of Iowa are very nice. Same with the people of New Hampshire. But I don’t want them winnowing down the field of candidates months before my state’s nominating contest. Their populations, their concerns, their priorities are not universal. But their influence in elections is incongruously vast.

The only way have have a truly intersectional primary is to have one slate of candidates that is unchanged from state to state. There are two ways to get that: change the the entire system to cap the duration of campaigns and dramatically reduce the amount of money that can be spent. Or set a single primary date for the whole country.

Because the way we do it now is outdated and unfair and it’s beyond time to fix that problem.

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