Showing posts with label NASS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NASS. Show all posts

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How many double-takes can one do in a split second?

I think I broke the record.

Last night as I was putting the finishing touches on the two posts I was working on, a Google Alert email came up on my phone. [Well, the buzz of my phone told me I had a message. I had to actually pick the phone up to see that it was one of the Google Alert variety.] Instead of totally interrupting my train of thought and clicking on the adjacent email tab online, I picked up my phone and this is what I saw:
Presidential Primary Process Reorganized
Kansas City Star

Instead of the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire-Super Tuesday trifecta, the 2012 cycle will be the first to use a rotating system among four region: ...
WHAT!?! How did I miss this? How was it not being more widely reported than in the Kansas City Star (No offense Star employees.)?

At that point my posts were forced to take a backseat to this new and necessary investigation. I switched to the computer, found the relevant Alert message in my email queue and clicked on it. Rapidly, I scanned the article for the headline I had seen on my phone. I located it and this is what I read:

Presidential Primary Process Reorganized

WASHINGTON | The two major political parties have announced the implementation of a regional primary system for presidential nominations. Instead of the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire-Super Tuesday trifecta, the 2012 cycle will be the first to use a rotating system among four regions: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest and Southwest. The first region to hold primaries next year will be the Northeast, which will go last in 2016.

This plan is the culmination of efforts from disparate advocates, including the National Association of Secretaries of States and former Florida Gov. Bob Graham. The intention is to increase diverse participation by ensuring that all areas of the country get an early say in the nomination process.

Again, what!?! First of all, how had a near impossibility -- the fact that both major parties had quietly altered their 2012 delegate selection rules after having settled on them already -- been left unreported to this point? Secondly, why was this only in the Kansas City Star?

It was then that I looked up at the true headline (and just a section heading masquerading as one on a smartphone):
Oh, well that explains it. Perhaps this should be amended to read "Headlines that America deserves to see in 2014". That will be the next time we will see any sort of headline on a definitive change in primary organization. And maybe you've seen over the years, I'm not entirely bullish on that happening then or any other time. But 2014 would be the earliest possible time that we would see that.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: The National Association of Secretaries of State's New President

This is part four in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three here (second installment here).

As was the case earlier in the week when I brought up the fact that Bill Nelson and Carl Levin had introduced the 2009 version of the Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act (FaRPPA), this post won't break any new ground (not in the way that the first two posts in this series did). However, it is an interesting bit of news -- just like the bill before the Senate -- that may have an impact on presidential primary reform.

Earlier this week (on Sunday in fact), Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson was sworn in as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Now, this is a position that holds a two year term and rotates back and forth between parties each cycle. One cycle a Republican secretary of state will lead the group and in the next, a Democrat will. The twist on this is that this is the same Trey Grayson who has formed an exploratory committee eying the race for the Senate seat now held by John Bunning. The same John Bunning who is seemingly primed for defeat in his 2010 reelection bid.

No one seems particularly high on Bunning's chances of reelection (here, here and here to name a few), but also, no one can predict with any level of certainty what the Hall of Fame pitcher will do in terms of 2010. However, should he bow out and allow his heir apparent, Grayson, to fill the void, there are some implications for primary reform involved. This is completely speculative, as there are several steps involved to even get to the point where Trey Grayson is the junior senator from Kentucky. But in Grayson, the Senate would have another strong advocate of presidential primary reform. He would, however, be someone who would likely tout the National Association of Secretaries of State rotating regional primary plan as opposed to the plan in the FaRPPA legislation. In other words, Trey Grayson would be an advocate of the simpler NASS plan.

Let's have a look at the broad outline of that plan (What? Of course there's a revamped map included.):

[Click to Enlarge]

For the sake of laying this out, I'll compare it to the legislation currently in committee in the Senate. The NASS plan divides the nation into four regions (instead of six) and has all the states in one region holding their contests on the same date (as opposed to the subregional mix and match of FaRPPA). Off the bat, then, there are some noticeable differences between the two plans. The biggest is that the NASS plan continues to grant Iowa and New Hampshire exemptions similar to what the two major parties have been doing for the better part of three decades. Outside of that, the NASS plan has but four contest dates compared to the six subregional affairs in FaRPPA. Iowa and New Hampshire would likely hold their nominating contests some time in February with the four regional contests following in monthly intervals after the first Tuesdays in March, April, May and June. A lottery before the first election this was implemented for would set the sequence and regions would rotate in each subsequent election. If, then, the order for the first election was South, West, Midwest and Northeast, the next election would see the South move to the end of the process with every other region moving up a spot from the previous election (West, Midwest, Northeast and South).

NASS hopes to have the plan adopted by 2012 so that it could be implemented for the 2016 cycle. No, that's probably not what reform advocates have in mind.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WA-SoS Urges Steele to Back a Regional Primary System

Well, indirectly...

The other day I was pleased, though not surprised, to see that Washington Secretary of State, Sam Reed was calling on newly-elected RNC chair Michael Steele to appoint secretaries of state to the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee that will shape the Republican primary system/calendar for 2012. [Pleased because any news on this front makes for more discussion here at FHQ. And not surprised because Reed, as a secretary of state and former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, wasn't really going out on a limb to endorse a system that he and other secretaries of state have constructed and backed.]

However, as David Ammons, Secretary Reed's communications director, alludes to, Secretary Reed is getting out in front of a process that will take place between now and the summer of 2010 to craft the system for the 2012 nomination -- a system that will right the frontloading wrongs highlighted by the 2008 calendar. For my part, I'm less concerned with the specific reform in this case and more interested in the means by which Reed envisions it coming to pass.

Ammons was kind enough to share the secretary's letter to Steele with me and in it, Reed identifies the need to...
"...appoint Secretaries of State to this committee. It only makes sense to have people that are knowledgeable about the process and election procedures participating in creating the solutions to these problems."
Recall that the 15 person Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is comprised of 4 elected memebers from the RNC (one of those four, Fredi Simpson, happens to be from Reed's home state of Washington) and eleven members chosen by Steele himself. Of course, Reed then goes on to offer up both his and Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson's (also current president of the National Association of Secretaries of State) services to be two of those eleven chair-selected members.

So, what we are starting to see is the obvious.
  1. Steele has quite a bit of power over this process.
  2. Who those 11 members are matters.
To that second point, secretaries of state are going to be predisposed to supporting the NASS rotating regional primary plan. But that may not be the direction in which Steele wants to steer this process (...if Steele even hangs on to the position). Outside of occupation/elected office, though, what can we look at in terms of the future members' characteristics to get a sense of what the ultimate plan will be? As I've already stated, if the primary calendar remains unchanged in 2012, Mitt Romney is in a prime position to capture the GOP nomination. Much of that depends on Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee not only entering the race but splitting the vital social conservative vote in both Iowa and South Carolina. And that conclusion is not out of line with the results of the recent straw poll at the CPAC conference. Those two things (CPAC straw poll and Iowa/South Carolina nominating contests) don't necessarily equate to each other, but the same sort of dynamic could be at play. Regardless, support for Romney is essentially a proxy for support for the status quo in terms of the nomination system. Support for other candidates, then, could mean support of some measure of reform. [And that isn't to say that Romney supporters can't also support primary reform, but it won't happen unless the system is seen as something advantageous to the former Massachusetts governor.]

With that in mind, one thing I've already looked into is the FEC reports on contributions from the four elected members of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. This is something we can look at for the other 11 members when they are named as well. Here are those four members (via TheNextRight):

Region Member Defeated
Northeast David Norcross (NJ) Ron Kaufman (MA)
South John Ryder (TN) Morton Blackwell (VA)
Midwest Pete Ricketts (NE) Bob Bennett (OH)
West Fredi Simpson (WA) Ron Nehring (CA)

Norcross, for example, gave $2300 to Mitt Romey's campaign in early 2007. The other three, however, didn't appear to have national-level contribution activity other than to the RNC. Those three focused much of their donations on state parties and local senate candidates. As the other members are named, we may be able to draw similar conclusions.

But for now we're just playing the waiting game.

[UPDATE: The letter cited above is now posted in full on the Washington Secretary of State's web site now.]

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frontloading Under Fire, Part II

And here you thought, presidential primary (and caucus) frontloading was off the agenda until, say, 2011. No, as I mentioned in the initial installment of the "Frontloading Under Fire" series [Yeah, I didn't know there would be other ones either. But I opted to rehash the title instead of coming up with something snappy or forcing something boring.], frontloading in 2012 is very much on the agenda these days. The GOP are forced to confront the issue now -- as in, at their convention -- because they can only debate and make such rule-changing decisions from within the confines of the convention. The Ohio Plan (see a discussion of it and other reform plans in the right hand sidebar)that the Republicans are forwarding would grant Iowa and New Hampshire their customary positions at the front of the line with a series of small state contests to follow. The remaining, bigger states would be split into three groups with each group holding contests a few weeks apart (after the small states). We are just a few weeks off from the GOP convention, so one piece of the 2012 puzzle will be in place then.

Another piece of that puzzle is the potential for a regional primary system. The one proposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State received some attention this past weekend as the group met in Grand Rapids, MI for its annual summer meeting. Given what transpired in Michigan during primary season, Grand Rapids was an interesting location for the meeting. Really, all that came out of the meeting in regard to the primary system was that NASS was still in favor of the rotating regional primary. But hey, it was in the news (...buried under all that McCain and Obama talk and perhaps some other stories as well.).

I bring the Ohio Plan and the regional primary plan up together because I only really take the former seriously. Why? Well, the national parties are more likely to have some say in the issue than even this bipartisan collection of secretaries of state. The ball has always been in the parties' court on this issue. The decision is made based on the interaction between state parties/legislatures and the national parties. The national parties set the rules and the state-level actors operate under them. Secretaries of state work independent of that relationship unless, of course, you are talking about New Hampshire, where it is the secretary of state and not the state parties/legislatures making the decision.

Unless the regional primary system is being pushed by the parties, it is likely going nowhere, and it will continue to go nowhere until Congress intervenes. And that won't happen, will it? Sen. Nelson (FL-D) has brought something similar to the NASS plan in the Senate, but talk of his electoral reforms (the bill includes electoral college reform as well) has been pushed to the side since the Democratic nomination race was decided. But does Congress even have the right to make a decision on this matter? That was the topic of a recent posting by Dan Tokaji on the Election Law Blog. A forthcoming book chapter from Brookings by Dan Lowenstein tackles the issue:
The drawn-out contest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 may temporarily mitigate but is not likely permanently to end pressure to halt or reverse the front-loading of presidential primaries and caucuses, including pressure for action by Congress. In this essay, written for publication in a forthcoming Brookings volume, REFORMING THE NOMINATION PROCESS edited by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer, I take no position on the desirability of reform, other than to support a ban on nominating events prior to a specified date in February or early March. Rather, the essay concentrates on congressional power to regulate the timing of nominating events.

I argue that some commentators have underestimated the structural arguments against any implied power by Congress to regulate presidential nominations. However, relying on the 12th Amendment, I come to the same conclusion as most commentators, that Congress does have the implied power. With respect to possible limitations on Congress' power deriving from the parties' associational rights, it is necessary to consider who the likely complainants will be. The most likely entities to object to congressional regulation are state governments and state parties. But the former have no first amendment rights against congressional action and the latter's claims would be quite weak. National parties could have stronger constitutional grounds for objecting to congressional regulation, though it is far from clear that they would prevail. More importantly, the prospects for congressional action are not particularly great in any event and the chances that Congress would act over the strenuous objection of one or both major parties are remote. Regulation is not unconstitutional on associational grounds unless the affected association objects. Therefore, whatever the national parties' theoretical associational rights may be, there is little likelihood Congress will regulate in an unconstitutional manner.

In a brief final section, I suggest that despite the probable constitutionality of congressional regulation, substantive regulation is undesirable, with the possible exception of setting a starting date. If Congress feels under political pressure to do something more, it would be better advised to facilitate joint deliberation and negotiation by the two major parties and to assist them in enforcing their own rules against the state than to impose a mandatory system on the parties and states.

Needless to say, I'll be lined up outside the bookstore for that one when the time comes for its release. More to the point, though, that adds some insight to the reform discussion we've been having here. Congress does have the ability (and likely the upper hand in court) should it decide to wade into the issue of scheduling presidential nominating events. However, normatively (at least in Lowenstein's eyes) that may not be the preferred route to reform.

...unless it includes his earlier capping of when states can actually hold their contests.

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