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Move To Regional Primaries

Editorial for Jan. 31, 2008

Move to regional primaries

Even as the Republican Party and Democratic Party prepare for their respective presidential preference caucuses on Feb. 9, it's clear that the nation's presidential selection process is overdue for a new approach.

Honestly, it makes no sense to allow a state such as Iowa or New Hampshire to have such a major impact on the course of the presidential nominating process. These are small and essentially unrepresentative states, yet because of media-driven reports of "momentum" for the winners, the race can take wild twists and turns that may or not result in the best leader emerging.

This campaign season in particular, we had to endure the chaos created when state after state pushed the date of their primary or caucuses earlier into the year in order to try to maximize their political impact. States waited to decide when their primaries or caucuses would be held based on what other states were doing.

It has been an absurd way to set a schedule for something as important as deciding who will win the nomination of one of the two major political parties in the country, and as a result have a 50-50 chance of becoming president of the United States.

There have been proposals for a sensible approach to this process, and last week, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed joined in urging Congress to junk the current system and organize a series of regional primaries instead.

Here is how the plan -- known as the "Rotating Regional Presidential Primary" -- would operate:

Starting in the election campaign of 2012, four regions of the nation would be defined: West, Midwest, South, and East, with all the states grouped into one of these regions.

In 2012, the West would hold primaries or caucuses to select its national convention delegates in March. The Midwest would make its selections in April. The South would follow in May, and the East would vote its choices in June.

To ensure that no one region would hold the most political power, the system automatically rotates which region goes first. In 2016, for example, the Midwest would lead off in March, with the West rotating to the back of the line and voting last. In 2020, the South would lead the pack, etc.

In a nod to tradition, Iowa and New Hampshire would still be allowed to conduct their selection process before the regional selections would take place.

This blueprint for change, which has been endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State, should be supported by partisans on both sides of the political divide. It's fair and sensible, and does not favor any particular party.

It is a logical system that would bring sanity and order to our presidential nominating processes. Right now, we have chaos.

Secretary Reed, a two-term Republican, points out that this approach is "common sense." He's right. The current situation, with candidates hop-scotching willy-nilly all across the country, is a mess.

Reed has called on the Washington Legislature support to this concept by sending a petition to Congress urging this change. State legislators should lend their voice to this effort.

It's too late for this year, of course, but 2012 will be here soon enough. There is no reason anyone should want to see a repeat of this year's nonsense, with states embarrassingly jockeying to be first in line.

Reed and his fellow secretaries of state are absolutely right: It's high time for a change, and this would be a smart one.

JB

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