Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) today announced legislation substantially reforming the presidential primary election process. With the “race to the front” of the primary calendar at fever pitch, the proposed legislation would provide structure to the primary election and caucus season by establishing a rotating schedule of regional presidential primaries and caucuses. The reformed system would de-compress the schedule, allowing candidates to focus their time and efforts and giving voters in all states the opportunity to have a powerful voice in the selection of party nominees.
The bill would create a region-by-region primary system where, on a rotating basis, states in the West, Midwest, South, and East take turns hosting the first batch of primaries and caucuses. Beginning in 2012, primaries and caucuses would start on the first Tuesday in March, continuing on the first Tuesday in April, May, and June until each region has chosen candidates for the party conventions. The next presidential election year, a different region would have a chance to go first—rotating through all the regions every 16 years.
Iowa and New Hampshire would not participate in the regional rotation, and would remain as the historical first caucus and primary in the nation.
“Primaries were not intended to be an arms race,” said Klobuchar, the lead sponsor of the bill. “We seek to give order to this chaotic, messy, and unrepresentative process. This schedule gives power and influence back to the voters in every state.”
“The presidential nomination system is broken,” Alexander said. “The American Dream that ‘any boy or girl can grow up to be president’ has become a nightmare. States racing to schedule early contests have made the nomination process too long and expensive. At least 18 states will choose delegates in a one-day traffic jam on February 5 next year. Our legislation will increase the pool of good candidates willing to run for the White House and give more Americans the opportunity to hear their ideas and to cast a meaningful vote.”
“The guiding principle of our democracy is that every citizen has the opportunity to choose his or her political leaders,” said Lieberman. “But the sad truth is this principle no longer bears a resemblance to the reality of an increasingly compressed and arbitrary presidential primary system. We need to change that system to give more citizens a chance to participate. The most powerful political figure in the world should be chosen in a fair, inclusive, and structured way that reflects the importance of the office, as well as the founding principle of our great nation. ”