CRP Blog

Monday, March 31, 2008

Primary Reform on the Agenda for RNC State Chairs Meeting

The RNC's Rules Committee will meet for two days beginning tomorrow in conjunction with the RNC state chairmen's meeting in New Mexico. The top item on the agenda is a review of proposals for reforming the primary election system for the 2012 election.

We fully expect to be working for the re-election of President McCain in 2012, so the reforms put in place for 2012 will be an important set-up for 2016. The fact that we're talking about elections so far in advance is the result of the fact that national party rules adopted at convention tee up the process for four years later.

Several proposals are on the table, with most featuring some variation of rotating regional primaries. Some plans would carve out exceptions for states like Maine and New Hampshire, while others would not.

The ultimate decision will rest with the Republican National CONVENTION's Rules Committee and then the full convention, which is separate and distinct from the Republican National COMMITTEE's Rules committee. [The convention's rules committee is elected by the each state's delegation to the national convention. The RNC's Rules Committee consists of one RNC member from each state, and can only make a recommendation to the full RNC and the convention.]

The National Association of Secretaries of State has a reform proposal that was developed with the leadership of our own Bill Jones when he was California's Secretary of State. The NASS plan consists of regional primaries, with the scheduling on a rotating basis so each state has the opportunity to be among the first every fourth presidential election.

It's not an easy system to reform, since participation ultimately hinges on each state legislature cooperating with the schedule set by the national party rules, which they can honor or disregard. Then there are the Democrats, and whatever they choose to do. It's unlikely any reform plan will ultimately win the support of the state legislatures unless both of the major parties adopt the same reform plan.

Like most systemic reforms, the sides here don't break down by ideology. There's no "moderate" or "conservative" or "liberal" way to set up a primary election schedule.

Another twist is the fact that the Democrats will hold their national convention first, so our convention can take into account what they do. Yet, Democrat rules allow for the DNC to change national party rules between conventions, while our rules do not allow for changes between conventions. Very interesting indeed.

We're at the early stages of what will be an intensifying issue in the months ahead.

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