Secretary of State
Secretary Grayson Appears Before Senate Committee to Advocate for a Rotating Regional Primary Plan
(Washington, D.C.) “This is the right problem to be solving.” Those words by Ranking Member Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) explained the urgency of the need to address the front-loading of the presidential primary process in the United States. Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, co-chair of the National Association of Secretaries of State’s (NASS) Presidential Primary Sub-Committee, appeared before the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee, today, to voice support for the Rotating Regional Primary Plan, a plan adopted by NASS to address this issue. S. 1905, the "Regional Presidential Primary and Caucus Act of 2007," is a tri-partisan bill that closely mirrors the plan supported by NASS.
“Rotating regional primaries are the key to restoring order to a process that has, for far too long, been marred by instability and disarray,” commented Secretary Grayson after his testimony. “As a native Kentuckian, I appreciate a good derby, but this is too much. The process has gone awry, and it needs to be fixed.”
Grayson testified that the current front-loaded presidential primary process makes the presidential campaigns even longer; it requires candidates to begin running even earlier; it compels them to raise even more money and to rely all the more on big media; it drastically reduces the odds for late entrees and dark horses; and even as more states lurch forward, it leaves almost forty percent of our voting population effectively disenfranchised.
NASS’s bipartisan proposal, created by the nation’s chief state election officials, divides the country into four regions (with the exception of Iowa and New Hampshire, which retain their early status to allow lesser-known, under-funded candidates to take advantage of the tradition of retail politics in those states) and establishes primary windows in March, April, May and June. The regional order rotates every four years, with each section of the country eventually voting first.
By staggering the voting over a period of four months, the rotating regional plan provides a more reasonable timeframe for campaigning that can alleviate some of the pressures—financial and otherwise—that quickly drive presidential candidates out of the race. It also forces our presidential nominees to pay attention to issues of regional concern, not just those taking priority in early primary states.
At the same time, more states get a reasonable say in selecting the candidates before the nominations are decided, and each region of the country has the opportunity to lead off the process every sixteen years. In turn, voters get a longer look at the candidates and how they perform.
“The NASS plan strives to more clearly define the presidential campaign cycle and to provide voters and candidates with the opportunity to focus on issues that are relevant to each region of the country,” stated Secretary Grayson. “Kentuckians deserve to have their voices heard in the presidential nomination process and to have candidates speak to issues that matter to them. This plan is not only best for the country as a whole, but is best for Kentucky.”
The Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, endorsed the NASS plan in its 2005 report, “Building Confidence in U.S. Elections.” Numerous respected political pundits, campaign operatives, newspaper editorial boards and academics have followed suit.
NASS hopes to convince the major political parties to proactively adopt the rotating regional primary system at the 2008 national conventions, which would then go into effect for 2012. Members have also passed a resolution requesting that the Republican Party consider changing its rules to allow revisions to the presidential nomination process outside of its conventions, which currently limit reform discussions to one short window of time every four years.
In order for the NASS plan to take full effect, NASS must secure the support of both the Republican and Democratic Parties and the rotating regional system must receive legislative approval in the states.
In addition to Grayson, a number of experts in this area appeared before the committee including bill sponsors Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), as well as rotating regional primary advocates Secretary of State Michael Mauro (D-Iowa), Professor William G. Mayer (Northeastern University), and Professor Richard L. Hasen (Loyola Law School).
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