Early Primaries

Commenting on a NYT piece on the impact that the frontloading of the primary process is having on the candidates, Steven Taylor observes, “If they are going to start forming committees and making multi-component announcements about how they are going to plan to think about running, and then how they are thinking about running, and then that they are actually running and so forth, it isn’t a surprise that the actual days for voting would be pulled forward, as if bidden by some gravitational displacement created by the force of politics.”

He’s also on the national primary bandwagon, albeit one with instant run-off voting rather than the double ballot (i.e, a mass election followed by a run-off at later time, with an interval for head-to-head campaigning) that I prefer.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I would rather see a runoff between all those candidates who pull 20% or more of the vote or the top two candidates (which ever produces more people in the runoff). That would narrow the field down to 2 -4 candidates (practically speaking as the odds of a 5 way equal split are pretty slim). While there would always be the chance that the “best” candidate gets lost in the shuffle, what I think is more likely that the chaff gets thrown out and people can concentrate on the best for the runoff. Since a lot of elections produce runoffs anyway, planning for a two step event wouldn’t be that onerous. The order of voting would be in reverse order in the runoff from the first election.

    This would let the pushy states like New Hampshire still be first, but the second round be the real impact election.

  2. MSS says:

    Curious to know, James, why you prefer a second round to an instant runoff.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to both, of course.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Curious to know, James, why you prefer a second round to an instant runoff.

    My preference is to winnow the field early (say, late Feb/early March) and then focus the two party contests to two candidates, allowing real debate when the non-rabid folks are paying attention. I just think it’d more likely lead to an informed choice.

  4. MSS says:

    Fair point, James. One of the advantages of two rounds is that it gives voters a chance to see the “final two” head to head. With a lot of candidates and one round, they may not have much information to go on as they develop a preference rank order.

    On the other hand, if there are a lot of candidates, the runoff may be head-to-head between two candidates who would not have been the final two under a more complete revelation of preference orderings.

    And the incentives for negative campaigning are much greater in one-on-one races than is the case under ranked choice.

    And then there is the cost of holding two elections to decide one outcome.

    I think the instant runoff (provided it is the alternative vote and not its bastard cousin, the supplementary vote) is superior to two-round majority. But I am not completely sold on AV, either.

    If one wants two rounds, one should consider other decision rules than majority–that is, various forms of qualified plurality.