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One Man One Vote, unless it's a primary?
June 10, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Voters Have Up to Five Times More Influence in Early Primaries. 'Voters in states with early primary races such as Iowa and New Hampshire have up to five times the influence of voters in later states in selecting presidential candidates, according to research by Brown University economist Brian Knight. The paper, the first to quantify the effects of early victories in the race for the presidential nomination, is co-authored by Nathan Schiff and published in The Journal of Political Economy."Evidence that early voters have a disproportionate influence over the selection of candidates violates 'one person-one vote' -- a democratic ideal on which our nation is based."'

'For example, Knight and Schiff found that in 2004, John Kerry benefited from surprising wins in early states and took votes away from Howard Dean, who held a strong lead prior to the beginning of the primary season. According to their research, Schiff and Knight predict that if states other than Iowa and New Hampshire had voted first in 2004, the Democratic nominee may have been John Edwards, rather than John Kerry.'

'Knight's current work addresses the policy implications of this research, exploring which system is the best in terms of selecting the best candidates. The work considers whether there should be a national primary in which every state votes on the same day, the current sequential system, or possibly a hybrid system with a rotating regional primary.'

But who are the voters most likely to be primary voters? Are they merely a cross-section of average voters in the general? Why does it seem that politicians during the primary adopt more extreme positions? Perhaps, because of this - Extreme Appeal: Voters Trust Extreme Positions More Than Moderate Ones, Study Finds.
posted by VikingSword (53 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Candidates also spend significantly more time and effort in states with early primary races. Without them, the nominees would always be who could raise the most money. I'm not against the rotating-regional idea, just to shut New Hampshire the hell up, but a nationwide primary would make your next presidential candidates whomever could suck up the most to AFSCME and the Chamber of Commerce. Yes, even more than it already is.
posted by Etrigan at 1:37 PM on June 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


*slowly shuffles New Hampshire Driver's License to the back of his wallet
posted by nathancaswell at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well ... yes, of course.

This is well known, and about as likely to change in the U.S. as Winner-Take-All, the disproportionate presidential and congressional voting power of low-population states, the Electoral College in general, nonproportional congressional representation ...

So ... yeah?
posted by kyrademon at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Solution: Eliminate primaries, make it a free for all!

Vote Mister Fabulous President 2020!

stupid constitutional age requirement
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Agreed with kyrademon, inasmuch as the primaries are the least of our troubles.

OR:

GOOGLE FIRST PAST THE POST
posted by Eideteker at 1:51 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't read the article but I'm guessing it might be talking about Romney having a stronger campaign team in Iowa than Obama's. I hope this isn't the case.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 1:52 PM on June 10, 2011


And basing our nominations on who can pander to corn farmers and whatever the prevailing industry in New Hampshire is (polling?) is better?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:53 PM on June 10, 2011


I'll argue that Obama won at least one additional state due to the extended Democratic primary, and the 2008 funding figures strongly suggests that engaging in late-primary states should be seen as a manpower and fundraising investment rather than a liability.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the more interesting point is in the third link. Hardly anyone I know votes in primaries. "Moderate" voters seem to think primaries are like NBA draft picks or something - you wait to see who gets chosen, and then root for who you like best. The people who do vote in primaries are the more politically motivated ones, and they tend not to be moderates. This is why when people scoff at the idea of Palin winning the Republican nomination, I'm hesitant to join in the laughter. You can expect the right to get motivated next year, and the left better do the same if it wants to keep the Tea Party out of the White House.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:56 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the basic premise of the system was that New Hampshirites are simply the coolest people, though. The article doesn't seem to address that.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:59 PM on June 10, 2011


I didn't read the article but I'm guessing it might be talking about Romney having a stronger campaign team in Iowa than Obama's. I hope this isn't the case.

He's not going to contest the Iowa Straw Poll, a sort of dry run for the caucuses. That means he's not contesting Iowa at all.

Not sure how that's a good thing--i think he is the least electable out there.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:01 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


He won that straw poll last time, I think he just figured there is nothing for him to gain in it this time.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:08 PM on June 10, 2011


^ Point being, he is far from not contesting Iowa.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:08 PM on June 10, 2011


It's a mixed bag. McCain skipped Iowa, but the Des Moines Register chose him as their pick for the Republican candidacy despite strong caucus support due to his lack of campaigning.

That said, I have no intention of being disingenuous and switching my registration to the Republican party at this time, but if anyone would like to give me an incentive to do so, feel free to message me!
posted by mikeh at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2011


That means he's not contesting Iowa at all.

he is far from not contesting Iowa

But there's contesting and there's "contesting".

As demonstrated by his Sistah Souljah moment on global warming, he's cast his lot with the center. He doesn't want to get pulled right by having to vie with Bachmann for the Tea Party votes in Iowa.
posted by Trurl at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2011


And people wonder why Canada continues to try to enforce a media blackout law on election results until all polls are closed.
posted by GuyZero at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought the basic premise of the system was that New Hampshirites are simply the coolest people, though.

Don't believe the propaganda - they're not actually made out of granite, despite the confusing nickname.
posted by Copronymus at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2011


I go with the corn subsidies test.

Mitt Romney Panders To Iowa Over Corn Ethanol Subsidies.

He's definitely going leaner in Iowa than he did before, but this isn't an abandonment. His frontrunner status makes it a lot easier to take that center though, you got that right.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


violates 'one person-one vote' -- a democratic ideal on which our nation is based."'

Wait wait wait wait. Is that really a democratic ideal on which our nation was founded? Slaves were 3/5 people and didn't get votes. Women didn't get votes ... I can see how someone might say it's a modern democratic principle, but it's not one that the U.S. was based on.

What about the Electoral College (as kd mentioned)? Or the Senate?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Based != founded.

That said, this is about how a private organization decides who to nominate for president. BFD.
posted by parliboy at 2:48 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well it's pretty hard to separate the primaries from the actual election. To say thy're completely unrelated is a bit... either disingenuous or naive, I'm not sure which.
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well it's pretty hard to separate the primaries from the actual election.

Neither dangerous or naive, but accurate. The Democrats can change their primary system without the Republicans doing so, and vice versa. There are state and federal laws that regulate party organization, registration, and voting, but the parties themselves, either at the state or national level largely determine their own primary structures. Not so with the general election.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:15 PM on June 10, 2011


Sorry, neither disingenuous nor naive.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:16 PM on June 10, 2011


You can expect the right to get motivated next year, and the left better do the same eat their shit sandwich with a smile on their face

FTFY. lol incumbency
posted by indubitable at 3:20 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, there is that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:24 PM on June 10, 2011


Primaries and caucuses are a party and state entity. They can be changed pretty radically, and have very little to do with the whole one man one vote issue, witness the whole convoluted TX system that (arguably) may have cost Clinton the nod (or at least contributed to her campaign difficulties) because they just didn't have a strong handle on it.
posted by edgeways at 3:54 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing,

This is why when people scoff at the idea of Palin winning the Republican nomination, I'm hesitant to join in the laughter. You can expect the right to get motivated next year, and the left better do the same if it wants to keep the Tea Party out of the White House.

This actually works against the Republicans. Precisely because it's the hard core and the extremists who sway the primaries, you can produce candidates that are entirely unelectable among the general voting populace.

Say Palin's supporters and the Tea Partiers ram through her or Bachmann to get the Republican nod. Neither of them has any chance in the general election. Almost everyone but their own core group of supporters thinks that they are crazy/stupid. A candidate like that would pull their own hard core, the Tea Party vote, Republican "anybody but Obama" voters, "Red Dogs"...and that's it. A candidate like that would drive independents and moderates away in droves exactly because they are so extreme.

In the current situation, I think the extremist nature of the primaries is actually a great thing for the Democrats.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:06 PM on June 10, 2011


Neither of them has any chance in the general election.

Don't be so sure. A lot of things can happen.
posted by empath at 4:10 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beginning in 2012, California will replace their standard election system with a party-free protocol called the two-round system, which is a statewide primary of all candidates (excluding the US president and local offices), followed by a Novermber runoff between the top two candidates, whichever party they may be from. So, an anti-partisan demand for some kind of change is obviously there if California is any indication.
posted by Brian B. at 4:13 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


And people wonder why Canada continues to try to enforce a media blackout law on election results until all polls are closed.

I think you might be a bit confused; this article is talking about states that have primaries weeks, even months, before other states. This isn't a matter of one state's results swaying the winner of a national election because people "vote for the winner" late in the day. It's a matter of candidates who gain 'momentum' in a months, even year-long campaign by getting wins early on in states with the first primaries.
posted by verb at 5:09 PM on June 10, 2011


No, I realize how it works. But I think the situation is basically the same, except over a longer time period. In the primaries, one bad state result can knock a contender out of the race early on, especially the very first states. Imagine how different primaries would be if results were withheld until the last state tallied their numbers. It would kill the press coverage the primaries were meant to generate but they'd be a lot more "fair".
posted by GuyZero at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I recall fucking Iowa gave the primary to that stiff Kerry over Dean then didn't even come out to vote for him in the general election. I'll never forgive them for that. Why would a party award an early primary to a state that doesn't even vote for their damn party? The early primaries should go to the states that give the biggest margins of victory in the prior election.
posted by any major dude at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2011


Heh, disregard my first sentence, gotta love a guy commenting without reading the links OR then original post.
posted by any major dude at 5:21 PM on June 10, 2011


a national primary would deplete the donor base more quickly than the current system, so unless both parties switch over at the same time there will be a significant disparity come the general election.
posted by striatic at 6:10 PM on June 10, 2011


I've always had in mind this idealized primary schedule where states are in groups of five that are regionally contiguous over a ten-week period. Every four years the group your state is in advances so every group, eventually, comes first.

Another version has groups of four over twelve weeks, with two different states playing "Iowa" and "New Hampshire" every cycle.

We would need to stay fifty states for 200 years for everyone to get a chance that way, of course....
posted by dhartung at 6:42 PM on June 10, 2011


You know, I've voted on every single election since I turned 18. City, county, state, federal. In local elections it might make a difference, but state and fed...the districts are so gerrymandered that my vote makes fuck-all difference.

I've become really disillusioned about my ability to effect change in a system that only pretends to be a democracy.
posted by dejah420 at 6:51 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


This will end the moment that it becomes common practice for political parties to attempt to split the votes of their opposition by running false flag candidates. Ross Perot helped the Democrats the same way that Ralph Nader got Bush elected.

That said, this process makes American politics beholden to farmers in a way that is totally out of proportion to their population. There are more people who play world of warcraft in the US than there are people who earn a living but yet you never hear about how washington just doesn't understand the plight of a night elf in Arathi Basin because we have primaries in Iowa. It also radically disenfranchises the city dwellers of our country.

Additionally, I truly believe hell will free over before the Tea Party actually decided to support the whole idea that those that are taxed should be represented in federal government. I predict that any attempt by denizens of Washington,DC to achieve federal representation in any meaningful way will be most strenuously objected to by the Tea Party. Actually, that would be an excellent wedge issue if they manage to amount to anything this upcoming electoral cycle.
posted by Freen at 6:52 PM on June 10, 2011


I think Romney trying to stake out the middle is a sharp move, considering all the other bumbleheads trying to get the nomination. I think it nets him more votes than any of the candidates that are courting the wingnut right.

But, if he gets the middle but loses the Tea Baggers and the motivated older voters who are scared/mad at the Medicare fiasco that's brewing on the right, he loses anyway.

Even with the shit economy, it still feels to me that Obama's in the driver's seat.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:52 PM on June 10, 2011


I'll argue that Obama won at least one additional state due to the extended Democratic primary, and the 2008 funding figures strongly suggests that engaging in late-primary states should be seen as a manpower and fundraising investment rather than a liability.

Absolutely. I was saying this back during the '08 primaries. My state (North Carolina) wouldn't have gone blue if there hadn't already been an extensive ground operation in place from May for the fall. The long fight against Clinton made Obama a much, much stronger candidate for the general; it built his operation, toughened him up as a campaigner and debater, and got the only really effective line of attack (Jeremiah Wright) on the table so early that it was ancient news by November.
posted by EarBucket at 7:14 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I've voted on every single election since I turned 18. City, county, state, federal. In local elections it might make a difference, but state and fed...the districts are so gerrymandered that my vote makes fuck-all difference.

I've become really disillusioned about my ability to effect change in a system that only pretends to be a democracy.


Your vote doesn't make a difference, neither does mine, they aren't supposed to. Voting is just an Applause-o-Meter on paper. The point is to poll the population for a preference. Our individual voices might get drowned out by the crowd, but they all add up to something.

And look at how quickly things can change in one election. 2010 changed the balance of power in the US. No matter what the districts are, the will of the people shows through. For better or worse....
posted by gjc at 7:20 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Check out the list of Iowa caucus winners. Plenty of folks didn't go on to get the nomination, including George HW Bush in 1980, Dick Gephardt and Bob Dole in 1988, Tom Harkin in 1992 and Mike Huckabee in 2008. After you throw out the incumbents, it looks like a bit of a crapshoot.
posted by box at 7:26 PM on June 10, 2011


Brian B.: I generally take that less as anti-partisan demand and more as "Californians hate their dysfunctional government and their lawmakers so much that they will enact any punitive initiative against them in the name of electoral reform."

As opposed to, say, repealing Prop 13.
posted by Weebot at 7:26 PM on June 10, 2011


Imagine how different primaries would be if results were withheld until the last state tallied their numbers. It would kill the press coverage the primaries were meant to generate but they'd be a lot more "fair".

Cool idea, but you can't ban private polling.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:27 PM on June 10, 2011


What about the Electoral College (as kd mentioned)?

That's exactly right. The Electoral College isn't one person-one vote. It's much more about states' rights. Even if you got rid of the primaries, you'd still have to contend with the EC. Ron Paul summarises this pretty succinctly:

"The Electoral College likewise was created in the Constitution to guard against majority tyranny in federal elections. The President was to be elected by the states rather than the citizenry as a whole, with votes apportioned to states according to their representation in Congress."

Sounds great in theory, but in practice Presidential candidates and their campaigns don't have to focus on all small states or even all states – just the battleground states, those states where the vote is deeply competitive. What this means is that a small state with a guaranteed vote for either party is ignored by campaigns in favour of states where results cannot be so easily predicted. As a result, roughly two-thirds of all states in the elections between 1988 and 2004 were non-competitive and the voters ignored, (Link to PDF) which is kind of an odd reversal of "majority tyranny" if we're being ironic.

So the claim that "one person-one vote" is a founding ideal... is an odd claim to make.

I'm no lawyer or judge but I think you can kind of make a constitutional argument in favour of a direct popular vote. At the moment, the second clause in Article II, Section 1, shows the Electoral College and states’ power therein is a constitutionally mandated system. But certain Amendments to the Constitution were made to give more and more Americans the right to vote, and arguably demonstrate that voting is considered to be a right linked to individual equality. The 15th afforded the right to vote to citizens regardless of race; the 19th did the same for women; the 23rd allowed citizens of the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections; poll taxes were abolished with the 24th (addressing the sticky notion of class); and finally, the 26th set the voting age at 18. I think you could reasonably make the case that these Amendments addressed issues of inequality by drawing a moral equivalency between individual equality and a person’s right to vote.

Having said all that, I mean, at the end of the day, aside from four contentious elections (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000) where the popular vote for the losing candidate was higher than the victor's, the system still works for the most part, especially when you accept the fact that it was never intended to be one person-one vote. I definitely think changes need to be made to the system as it exists right now. One solution for the primaries, for example, might be to frontload large, demographically diverse states like California.

(First mefi comment, hooray! I drew most of the above from a paper I wrote for class so this is a kind of cheating-off-yourself thing...)
posted by OddlySurreal at 7:33 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Evidence that early voters have a disproportionate influence over the selection of candidates violates 'one person-one vote' -- a democratic ideal on which our nation is based."'

Someone doesn't understand voting, apparently. You aren't voting for president in a primary. You are voting for who you think ought to be the candidate your party should put up for the office. Every voter has their say, and then they tally the delegates up.

Early voting *seems* to have a stronger effect because of the narrative put out by campaigns and useless political pundits. It doesn't matter which states go first or last- the voters in whatever state is voting at the time will take the relevant information and vote for their preference. If candidate Xavier connects with the voters in Iowa and surprises the pundits, that candidate will probably connect with the voters in the rest of the states and it will look like Iowa pushed the race in a certain direction. When in reality, it is far more likely they are just the first to notice that Candidate Stiffman is a prick and Xavier seems like a nice guy.
posted by gjc at 7:35 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


And those 537 people in Florida in 2000...? Their votes were worth about 500,000* times those of every other American. Yay politics!

*Don't hold me to the math, it was just for effect. /englishmajor
posted by erstwhile at 7:47 PM on June 10, 2011


Ross Perot helped the Democrats the same way that Ralph Nader got Bush elected.

This is untrue; Perot won voters in almost equal proportion from both Republican and Democrat candidate alike in both 1992 and 1996. Clinton would have still won both elections quite handily.
posted by mightygodking at 11:48 PM on June 10, 2011


As far as the Electoral College goes, getting rid of it (effectively anyway) doesn't even require a Constitutional amendment.

The people at National Popular Vote worked out a nifty back door. The EC is mandated by the Constitution, but the individual states are free to apportion their EC votes however they see fit, it doesn't have to be based on the votes in their state.

Therefore if states controlling 270 Electoral votes pledge to give their votes to the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide, the EC is effectively ended and becomes a mere formality and we get a national election for president.

This is now law in 8 states controlling 77 Electoral Votes, and has passed both houses and needs only a governor's signature to be law in three more (including California).

The way it's set up the states won't change how they apportion their EC votes until there are enough states signed on to produce a national vote, that way they aren't boned in the interim.

I think it's a nifty legal hack.
posted by sotonohito at 5:31 AM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


i read that as Voters Have Up to Five Times More Influence in Early PrimaTES and immediately thought, evolution by democracy? i need more coffee :P
posted by liza at 5:39 AM on June 11, 2011


Just for clarification, in voting theory a one-person-one-vote establishes voter equality, though it does not establish citizen and resident equality, ie, who can vote. The right to vote is a separate issue. However, voter equality is a key sticking point when deciding which voting methods to use. For example, most state laws explicitly limit votes to a one-person-one-vote ballot per election. What this means is that approval voting or range voting or any other ranking method is effectively outlawed until the courts say it doesn't violate the terms of one-person-one-vote. Using it to challenge the status quo is probably a good move at this stage.
posted by Brian B. at 9:54 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


evolution by democracy?

If only.
posted by EarBucket at 12:34 PM on June 11, 2011


Funy this was from Brown: here in Rhode Island, the primaries pretty much are the elections.

The Democracts *so* dominate the political sphere that noone else comes near them in the general elections. Since the primaries are closed, non-Dem voters don't have a real say in who their officials are.

The other weirdo thing about RI politics is that EVERYONE disaffiliates as they leave the polling place on primary day. This means that the "official" statistics for party affiliation show a huge number of Unaffiliated voters...and yet we're still the most-Dem state in the nation! (2010 figures from http://www.gallup.com/poll/125450/party-affiliation-despite-gop-gains-states-remain-blue.aspx)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2011


gjc: That's not really the case because candidates are encouraged to concede the race and, therefore, delegates to the convention mid-primary.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2011


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