We can only watch, not affect primary outcome

by: ,

One of the more undemocratic traditions still alive in this country is playing out weekly right now as a handful of states select the 2008 nominees for president.

Oregon citizens should feel disenfranchised by a 'system' of primaries that essentially leaves this state with no input into the presidential nominations. By the time Oregon's primary rolls around on May 20, the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire will have winnowed down the field of candidates, and the Super Tuesday states that vote on Feb. 5 will most likely have finished the job of picking the two people who will compete in November.

Oregon might at least have chosen to participate in the Feb. 5 mega-primary, but the 2007 state Legislature failed to pass a law that would have moved Oregon's presidential primary election up by three months. Now, this state's citizens are once again left merely to observe in January while a small and unrepresentative slice of the nation's population - the portion that actually votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and other ultra-early states - plays an outsized role in what is arguably the most important decision of a democratic society.

It is long past time to change this herky-jerky process for choosing presidential nominees. And it's easy to design a better way to pick presidential nominees - the National Association of Secretaries of State already has done so. The difficulty arises in getting such a system implemented.

The NASS proposal is a system of rotating regional primaries. In each presidential election year, a different region of the country would get to go first. The regional primaries would be spaced on the calendar to allow adequate time for candidates to campaign in each region of the country.

The regional-primary plan would put some order into a process that is now decided state by state. It would stop the stampede of states trying to establish earlier and earlier primary dates. And over time it would impose some semblance of fairness.

To be adopted, the plan must be accepted by both major political parties and then endorsed by each state Legislature. That in itself will be a grueling process. But it's one worth undertaking if the goal is to give all Americans - including perennially ignored Oregonians - a say in who should be running for president.