Let’s fix the Primary System in the U.S.

The Problems:

Primaries are centered around the 2 party system. Excluding the value of smaller third parties because the media focuses on the existing system of finding someone in each of the two parties to run.  This gives a tremendous advantage to those inside that party system.

Primaries are NOT representative of the voting public. They range widely in how they are handled resulting a deformed view of what actual consensus looks like.

Some states have caucuses – ie people standing in a room and having their vote publicly counted. People don’t like having to openly vote. Its awkward. There is a VERY noticeable lack of turnout for caucuses.

Then there are closed primaries, where only people who are registered members of the party can vote for the potential candidates. This seems reasonable, after all the party is the one sponsoring the candidate, but the reality is that anyone registered can vote for this person AFTER that date, so basically we are having some people choose what other people can vote on.

And then those counted votes are not counted evenly. Some state’s parties have a system where they allocate the votes proportionally to the delegates – ie 20% of the votes gets 20% of the delegates and other states allocate 100% of the delegates to whomever got the most votes.

Some states send their delegates with instructions to vote the election results, but those delegates are NOT REQUIRED to vote as elections indicate.  Yup.  They can just vote anyway they want to.  And on occasion they have.

Many states do a system where SOME delegates just vote however the fuck they want. No pretense that they should follow the voters, they are specifically directed to vote their conscious or their wallet or for their favorite m&ms.  Yeah. That’s right, just a few dozen people are deciding who gets to run for this office in those cases. This obvious creates a serious misrepresentation of what the actual population of the country wants.

Then there are states that completely avoid having a public primary vote as Colorado did this year to avoid giving any delegates to Trump. That happened. In a system that leads to who will be our President. A few powerful people chose how the delegates would vote by not letting the public vote at all.

Finally – none of these things is consistent from year to year.  Every year, the parties just decide to change it around.  They change anything from the dates to the method of voting.

And then there’s the problem of how few people vote at all, much less in a primary. As a result of undervoting we have a massively unrepresentative election. This needs to change.

The Solution:

FIRST: We change to the Alternative Vote.

Stop the the first past the post system of voting. That’s the one we all know – where the person with the majority of the votes wins. But you can have the majority of the votes and not represent the majority of voters. This is ESPECIALLY true in primaries where there are so many people in the field. So a candidate may win all the delegates by getting 32% of the votes. That doesn’t seem right, does it?
So let’s change to Alternative Vote. Watch the video to understand.  Essentially the Alternative Vote allows people to vote for people in order of preference.  And if your first choice is eliminated, your vote goes to your second choice and so on.  Believe me, it’s a WAY better plan.

SECOND: ALL Primaries happen on the same date.

We aren’t spreading this nightmare out over half a year. One day, with all potential candidates in same stew pot. No backsies. We had a spread of dates because historically candidates had to get around and explain themselves. Be seen in person. Well, let’s face it, that’s not necessary anymore. No one is going to a rally to change their mind. They are going to show support. We make our decisions based on information we gather on TV and the Internet.


You can go and mark Abstain, but YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP. Just like filing your taxes. It’s something everyone has to do. Some people feel this is a lack of freedom. But I think you can still act on your choice not to vote by abstaining, but you don’t get to just opt out because you too were lazy that day.

FOURTH: Candidates are required to publish and discuss all of their proposed policies on a pre-set list of issues.

In depth. You want to build a wall around the US, you need to submit a plan that shows how much it will cost, how it will be funded, details on how it will be accomplished, and analysis on expected outcomes WITH EVIDENCE.  Your proposal must include at least 2 legitimate objections to your plan and your counter position to those objections.  “We’ll see” doesn’t count as a counter argument. (interesting side note: this is how big business is run and if someone walked up to Trump the CEO with an outlandish idea, that person would need to put together just such a report to even get 30 seconds of Trump’s consideration. But apparently that’s not how he’s going to handle the Presidency)

FIFTH: Everyone votes on Everything.

With Alternative Vote that means you will vote for candidates in each party separately giving first, second, third etc to each one within that party. Or Abstain wholly or by individual. And that also means that EVERY Party has a chance to be considered in primaries.

There are downsides to this. For example, the Republicans may be favoring Cruz or Trump heavily but since the rest of the country is also voting on it –  Kasich, the moderate, may walk away with win.

But you can also see the upside – the middle is where things get accomplished. So I think the fact that this system may wash away the minority views it’s also more likely to work than our current system which misrepresents minority views far more drastically.  Still this is a serious drawback to my plan.  I would be interested to hear other views.

SIXTH.  Parties as a whole will also be voted on.

So for example – I voted for candidates in Green Party and Zoo Party and Garden Club.  But now I need to vote for which of these parties should be able to run ANY candidate in the final election.  Top 4 parties get to move forward.  Obviously there needs to be some kind of popular support existing to end up on a ballot in the first place.  And the current method of signatures of support seems reasonable.


The public vote is the only way this game is played. Super Delegates don’t belong in a democracy or, in my opinion, a republic. And the entire delegate system is pointless in this day and age.  Count the votes and be done with it.  Sorry – no more boozy conventions.

 EIGHTH: All states handle primaries the same.

There is no caucus vs primary vs no primary vs closed primary. It’s all a universal system. States manage it, but they can’t make up a bunch of rules that only apply to their state.

NINTH: Primary happens 3 months before the election.

Declaration of Candidacy and any version of open campaigning begins 3 months before Primary. 6 months and the whole nightmare is over for 3.5 years. I’m tempted to lower that to 2 months and 2 months…

I have other ideas on how I would revamp the whole system.  I’m hoping to write those up over the next few days weeks.

What do you think?  Shall we change the broken system?

7 thoughts on “Let’s fix the Primary System in the U.S.

  1. I like these. I would add we have focused debates around issues where the position papers are known beforehand. Tonight’s debate is on the economy and jobs, e.g. The panel must be permitted follow-up questions when answers are not given or are a bumper sticker slogans.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, and I would also do away with a debate audience. I find the cheering and jeering to be distracting and also prone to gamesmanship for the different campaigns. The crowd just plays up to a reality-show feel, which at least one candidate found to his advantage.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with almost everything you’ve suggested. You’ve pointed out the most serious problems with the whole system. With its arcane regulations, the lack of transparency, the bizarre delegate and “super” delegate situation, the whole system seems to be designed to be easily manipulated and corrupted.

    The whole delegate system is utterly bizarre. Some delegates in some states are required to vote for the winner of the popular vote. Others are bound to vote for the winner of the primary election, but only on the first ballot at the convention. The so-called ‘super’ delegates aren’t bound by anything, and while they can declare who they will vote for, are not bound by that declaration… The list of ways the system can be abused and corrupted is endless.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This season has made me see the primaries in a different way – I like your ideas here (though I doubt either you or I will live to see these things happen) – but they are based on the idea that the primaries are part of the democratic process. They aren’t really – the Reps and Dems are big clubs choosing their leaders and – for some reason – allowing the general public to weigh in. The super-delegates are there just in case the public goes a different way than the “real” members of the club want to. In my view, Colorado was maybe the one honest state, not pretending that the people (out there) really get a say in the club’s choice.
    Imagine the NRA allowing the general public to cast votes for who their next president should be – that is sort of how I see the primaries.


    1. Yup. You have quite accurately described the situation. And you are also right that it won’t get fixed. Those who make the laws that could fix are the ones who are screwed if it is fixed. Its not getting fixed without a revolution and that’s not going to happen. Nor do I want it to. So. Yeah. I can only dream.


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