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Bradbury urges primary reform

Oregon secretary of state wants to rotate presidential voting
by: jIM CLARK, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury is a proponent of a plan to rotate the presidential primary system every four years, giving each state an opportunity to vote on candidates early in the process.

One week from today, voters in 22 states — nearly half the country — will head to the polls and cast their ballots for a presidential nominee. To the dismay of many Oregon voters, however, this politically active swing state has been relegated to the sidelines during the national Super Tuesday events. With a primary election set for May 20 — tying us with Kentucky as the 46th state to weigh in on the 2008 elections — the Democratic and Republican nominees typically are long decided. Whether or not that’s actually the case this year, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury wants to change the primary election system. “It’s just nuts, the way the whole primary system is front-loaded,” he said, using the election term that refers to the biggest states holding their caucuses first. By the time Oregon’s primary rolls around, “it’s not likely that our votes are going to really matter,” he said. “It’s not likely we’re going to get much attention from anybody.” As one of the most vocal proponents of a 10-year-old reform proposal by the National Association of Secretaries of State that more than half the secretaries of state are supporting, Bradbury is looking to change that. The new system would group primaries or caucuses by region on a rotating basis beginning in 2012. A lottery would be held to determine which region would go first in March, and that region would move to the end of the primary calendar for the following presidential election cycle. Subsequent regions would hold their primaries in April, May and June. The only exceptions to the system would be Iowa and New Hampshire, which would retain their early time slots based on their traditions as small, easy stomping grounds for underfunded, lesser-known candidates. Bradbury said Oregon voters would benefit because candidates would be forced to bone up on issues of local importance and campaign in each region; in the Pacific Northwest, they would be vetting issues like forestry, salmon and renewable energy in the Pacific Northwest. For the new system to be adopted, both the Republicans and Democrats must endorse it. The Republican National Committee approved a similar plan in 2000, but President Bush, the Republican nominee at the time, halted the effort. This time around, the RNC is set to consider the rotating regional plan at its April rules meeting and then its September convention. The Democratic National Committee would consider it afterward. Without approval from both parties, Congress could proceed with legislation that would enact a similar system. It was introduced by a Republican, Democrat and independent. Oregon always has made a late showing except for 1996, a year after the state Legislature pushed the primary up to March. By 2000, it moved back to May, however, because it was too costly to print and send out separate ballots for the presidential race. And, Bradbury said, he’s not sure whether it made a difference: In 1996, Bill Clinton appeared to have wrapped up the Democratic nomination and Bob Dole the Republican nomination by the time Oregon’s date rolled around.