Ed: Hoping to make this a series examining areas that can be cut from budgets (city, county, state, nation) in order to curb our debt(s)
Having just emerged from the municipal primaries in Indiana it reminded me of a thought I had awhile ago, public funding of primaries is something that should be on the chopping block when we are looking to cut our state/county/city budgets. This is not to say that primaries are a bad thing, in fact, far from it. I just think that tax payers should not be funding something that is essentially a partisan exercise. Doing away with primaries (as we know them) will allow our governments to reallocate those resources towards other funding needs and allow the parties to discover new ways to engage their constituencies.
While eliminating the primaries from our government ledgers may not save us a lot of money, every bit helps. We don’t have to pay overtime for workers, don’t have to rent voting machines or pay for space, and allow for all of the extras that go along with the validation of an election. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for the Republican Party and Democratic Party selecting their nominees for various offices in November? While primaries in Indiana are “open” (anyone can participate – you don’t need to be registered in a party) many states have it so that you must be a registered member of a political party in order to participate. Which means that in those states, tax payers are funding exclusionary activities. I do not feel that the overall public is served by the primaries as we currently know them, rather they are fabrications created by the advent of our two political party domination. With the current fiscal crisis the United State is enduring, I think we can use this opportunity to reform what amounts to a broken part of our election process.
Many states will hold a statewide convention every four years. In some the purpose of this is just to serve as a political rallying point where all of the candidates can come together after the primary, while in others they use this as an opportunity to select the nominees for certain offices within their respective political parties. What I think works well is the caucus method that is used in several states (most famously in Iowa though). It is important that we have each party hold its proceedings on the same day to eliminate any sort of political gamesmanship – either on the party or individual level, a voter would then choose to attend the Republican or Democratic event where the voting could take place. How a vote is cast is up for consideration – public yay/nay style, secret ballot with majority rules, or rounds of voting until a candidate meets a pre-set threshold. While this method is time-consuming, it ensures that the candidates who hold the party doctrines most dear, do the best job of securing committed volunteers, and impassion the voters will be the ones who are elected within each party (editorial note on how the GOP should be careful not to run too far to the right and the Ds should be careful of the mirror effect).
Alternatively, computer systems are advanced enough these days that we could simply continue on with the tradition method of voting by just using the party HQs as a polling place with party staffers as poll workers. While that is a simple solution, I still advocate the system above as it enhances the engagement in the election process rather than just punching or card or touching a computer screen. Party platforms and individual planks could be discussed and resolved at that time; county parties would also become stronger on both sides by giving a true reason for supporters to come together. Regardless of the initial system of ballot casting, I fully support the convention style system for selecting a party’s nominee if a clear winner is not chosen in the initial voting (if the candidate is not seeking an office that requires votes from outside the county, the caucus style format would take care of that issue).
As someone who is concerned both about the debt and about civic participation I just think this time in our history presents a unique opportunity to both remove an unneeded expense from our ledgers and develop a nationwide system that more fully engages the public through community efforts.