Presidential Preference Primary Should Die

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I disagree with my friend Luke Esser, until recently the chair of the Washington State Republican Party, who said recently that there's something wrong in Olympia if elections are seen as a "frill," in reference to the idea of nixing the 2012 Presidential Preference Primary.

The reason he's wrong is that, self-evidently, the Presidential Preference Primary isn't an election at all. It pretends to be one, of course, but if I remember correctly, it has never had any meaning whatsoever on the Democratic side of the aisle, which means that more than half the votes ever cast in the primary were literally tossed out, except to be used as fodder for press releases by the State and Democratic State Party.

Whether to their credit or not, the Republican State Party has used the results of the primary every time (or close to it). But the decision over how much to count the primary, and how much to count it, isn't finally made until well after the primary results are known: if this were a real election, that would be a terribly undemocratic way to go about it.

But it's not a real election. No one actually gets elected or even nominated. At best it's an advisory vote. It's really just a way for Washingtonians to feel like they are a part of the process. But if they are Democrats and don't participate in the caucus, they aren't a part of the process. And if they are Republicans and don't participate in the caucus, they are perhaps a small part of the process, to be decided at a later date, depending on many factors, including how much the elected state delegates want them to be a part of the process.

Many of my peers in the GOP believe that no one should have a say in who the Washington State Republican Party nominee for President is, except for the people who choose to make up the Washington State Republican Party. That's a perfectly reasonable opinion, but it's not one I share very strongly: I see benefits to a primary that includes the larger body of the state's voters, while I also recognize the dangers of allowing essentially unaffiliated voters to dictate our leaders to us.

But at the end of the day, as a taxpayer, my main concern is that the facts show the Presidential Preference Primary is, at best, precious little more than a show. We should get rid of such superfluous expenses if we're serious about cutting spending.

[For those that don't understand how it all works, let me flesh it out a little more: the state parties nominate delegates to the national convention, and those delegates vote for particular candidates to be the national party nominee for President. It's how those delegates are allocated at the state level that's at issue.

In some states, a primary election determines the full allocation of delegates. In Washington, the party conventions determine the full allocation, and the parties are free to determine their allocations however they choose. Both parties use a precinct caucus system to elect delegates through various levels up to the state convention. Those delegates then vote at the state level for delegates to the national convention. However, the State Republicans usually reserve some percentage of the delegates to be allocated by the Presidential Preference Primary, whereas the Democrats do not.

Again, literally, the Presidential Preference Primary has no legal significance whatsoever, and usually has no practical significance, as the Democrats ignore it and the Republicans would diminish its slotted allocation if they didn't like the result.

I hope that cleared it up if you needed it to.]

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on January 23, 2011 10:23 PM.

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