July 31st, 2007
02:54 PM ET
12 years ago

Senators seek reform of presidential primary system

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senators Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota unveiled a bill Tuesday that would radically overhaul the presidential nomination process. The proposed tri-partisan bill, which would take effect in the 2012 presidential race, seeks to solve the issue of so-called primary “front-loading.”

The proposal would spread out primaries by dividing the nation into four regions — West, Midwest, South, and East — with a rotating lottery system determining the order of primaries for each region. The first primary would fall on March 1, 2012 for the first region, followed by one region each month until the season is complete after the final region’s primary on June 1.

Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their privileged “first-in-the-nation” status through a special exemption allowing them to start the delegate selection process before March 1.

“Primaries were not intended to be an arms race,” said Klobuchar. “This schedule gives power and influence back to the voters in every state.”

“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.”

Lieberman added that many voters feel the 2008 presidential race started too early and is already too long.

Currently, a large number of states have scheduled their primaries for the first Tuesday of February 2008, or what some are now calling “Super Duper Tuesday.”

In addition to the proposed regional primary, Sen. Alexander announced his intention to push for an increase in the amount an individual can donate to a presidential campaign from the current $2,300 to $10,000.

                                                                          -From CNN's Kevin Mayer and Xuan Thai

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Ian, Eastham MA

    Wow, this might actually make sense!

    July 31, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. Steven, Boulder, CO

    Great idea! It's a good start. Don't give Iowa and New Hampshire any exemptions–fair is fair! No "exemptions" for any state. They should absolve that stupid ELECTORAL COLLEGE baloney-crappola while they are at it!!

    July 31, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  3. Independent Voter, TN

    A great idea. Can anybody really argue with this?

    July 31, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. Sam, Houston, TX

    Good idea. But 1st get rid of the stupid electoral college!

    July 31, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  5. Craig, Indianapolis IN

    "Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their privileged “first-in-the-nation” status through a special exemption allowing them to start the delegate selection process before March 1."

    WHY? I like the idea of this bill, but i've never understood why some states get such influence in determining the cadidates that I ulimately choose from. As a leftward leaning independent in a solidly red state i can tell you that my vote has never really mattered. I've voted in every election since i turned 18, and not once has one of my votes turned in to an elector. The primary system also makes sure that my vote doesn't matter by choosing for me the canidate that will eventually lose in my state. I have always thought some sort of reform would come, and now we have this, and they still can't make it equitable.

    can anyone in washington tell me what gives Iowa and New Hampshire the right?

    July 31, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  6. John, Michigan

    Except for increasing the amount of donations, it sounds like a good idea. I like that it keeps the Iowa, New Hampshire tradition.

    July 31, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. David, San Francisco, CA

    Why on earth are Iowa & New Hampshire getting a pass on this one? I'm 100% behind the primary reform, but if there is an exemption for anyone it corrupts the entire process.

    July 31, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Travis

    Tradition? What does tradition have to do with justice and fairness. Iowa and New Hampshire have way to much influence in the process!

    July 31, 2007 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. TERRY BELLAH ft. smith arkansas

    How about adopting Englands time for elections and limiting money spent on campaigns.3-6 MONTHS AND A FEW MILLION AT MOST, SOUNDS GOOD TO ME

    July 31, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. Taylor, Philadelphia PA

    Yes, please increase the limit for donations so the candidate can respresent only a select few rather than many.

    Smells like democracy.

    July 31, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Connie, Tn.

    It's something that should have been done long ago with NO exemptions. It is time to do away with the electorial college if this is really is a Democracy and let the popular vote decide.

    July 31, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Ed Belanger

    I agree with Sam from Houston. The electoral college was an anachronism a hundred years ago. We would never suggest it to a new democracy. Regional primaries scheduled on a random basis is a step in the right direction.

    July 31, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  13. Barabas, Hot City, TX

    What's a worse system, the electoral college, or the College football BCS rankings?

    People still say that Gore would have won if based on the popular vote. I would have hated to see Gore in office, but I still think the popular vote would be a better system. The electoral college is outdated.

    July 31, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Mitch

    The proposed regional primary system is unneccesary. Why aren't all primaries on the same day, just like the actual election?

    The media is the real benefactor of the current system because of the extented period during which they gain revenue from political advertisements, as well as a prolonged period of time during which they can draw viewers with "Election" stories.

    While there are problems with our current Presidential Primaries system, there are even greater problems with our methods of financing campaigns. If the limit on individual campaign contributions was increased to $10,000 per person, you would see a great advantage given to whichever candidate is able to woo the wealthy segment of voters. We know that historically, whoever has the most money usually wins. An increase in campaign donation limits would be a large step in the wrong direction in creating a better democratic process.

    July 31, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. LTK

    Blah,blah,blah. I believe it when I see it.

    July 31, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. James, Connecticut

    This is not a democracy in the USA. We have a Constitutional Republic. The founders meant it to be that way, so that we do not have mob rule (aka democracy). The electoral college is a part of this representative government. Please educate yourself on what America really is, before you make comments.

    July 31, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Mitch in Minneapolis

    //Please educate yourself on what America really is, before you make comments.//

    To James in Connecticut- On the face of it we are a Constitutional Republic. Yes, that is what they teach us in school. And yes, it is what they want good citizens to believe.

    If you were to take your own advice and educate yourself before making comments, you would have learned that we are really a Two-Party system, both of which are funded and conrolled by major lobby groups and the super rich.

    It would be incredibly easy create a truly democratic online voting system where EVERYONE gets to vote on the important decisions (yes I know we have a limited system of referendums). The proposals would still be made by elected officials, but the decisions would be made by the people. Our Legislative Process already goes slow enough that we could hold National Votes once a month on key bills. Obviously there would have to be exceptions for when quick decisions need to be made, but a True Democracy is neither out of sight nor out of mind

    July 31, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. Kathe Oakland California

    You know it is a "set-up" when politicans want to change things. Has anyone seem where they are even suggesting that American citizens be required to pass a civics test before they can vote. I do not think so, I am an african american and I can remember my parents talking about the so-called test they had to take which was rigged against them. DO THEY THINK WE ARE CRAZY. If folks can't look at TV, read paper and find out about what is going on in this country too too bad. And what about the thousands of Americans – black and white who cannot read??What will you folks who want a civics test do about them will they too be the "forgotten Americans"

    July 31, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  19. Brian, Des Moines IA

    I have to agree with most people on here...this is a great idea and I don't think Iowa and New Hampshire should be first (even though I live in Des Moines, IA)! If you are going to say it is for tradition, than leave it alone because that is tradition. Also get raid of the electoral college! EVERY CITIZENS VOICE SHOULD BE HEARD!!

    July 31, 2007 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  20. Sam, Houston, TX

    GREAT IDEA Mitch in Minneapolis!!! Yesss~~!! I have thought for years that THE PEOPLE should vote on ALL ISSUES, not the )*(@+$%(@# politicians!! Boy–now THAT's a great idea! The pols vote what they think (read: their corporate *owners*), not what the PEOPLE WANT.

    July 31, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  21. Richard Winger

    This bill is not the first such bill. US Senator Alan Dixon (D-Ill) regularly introduced a similar plan when he was in office in the 1980's.

    July 31, 2007 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  22. Elder Statesman, Cincinnati, OH

    The electoral college is important for the states to have a role in choosing the president and for the president to have an electoral reason to attend to state interests. It also helps to maintain the two-party system. Those favoring a direct popular vote would threaten states' rights and the two-party system.

    July 31, 2007 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  23. Mike Dallas, TX

    I don't know if it is a good or a bad idea.

    One thing I know is Lieberman has zero credibility when it comes to a democratic election process and respect for it's outcome. By the way this is not a "trilateral" proposal. Lieberman really is a republican disguised as "independent".

    August 1, 2007 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  24. John, Michigan

    Okay Travis, tradition says you wait your turn just like we stand in line to vote. It is the behavior of the candidates that influence the vote. If you want fairness, reapportion congressional districts on the number of United States citizens.

    August 1, 2007 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  25. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Mitch in Minneapolis,

    Your idea of an online voting system has a lot of merrit and has actually been researched by some states. The problem with that type of system is that not everyone has access to, or wants access to, the internet. Because every citizen, regardless of economic status, has the right to vote polling stations will still be necessary.

    There are also verification issues involved in an online voting system that make the program unworkable. I wouldn't want unqualified, unregistered, undocumented individuals voting on referendums in my district deciding who my representives are and such.

    I liked the proposed tri-partisan bill right up the part when it gives an exemption to Iowa and New Hampshire. If the system is to be overhauled it should be completely across the board, no exception.

    The increase in contributions at the very end floored me. People are already amazed at the amounts of money campaigns are spending and they need to be increased? That makes absolutely no sense to me at all.

    August 1, 2007 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
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