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February 6, 2008

Speaking of caucuses versus primaries...

check out this this jurisprudence essay online at Slate from Professor Richard L. Hasen, titled "Whatever Happened to 'One Person, One Vote'? Why the crazy caucus and primary rules are legal."  Here is how it starts:

In the Iowa Democratic caucuses last month, Democrats had no right to cast a secret ballot. In tonight's Super Tuesday primary, Republican Party rules dictate that the state of Georgia will send more delegates (72) than Illinois (70) to the party's presidential nominating convention. Illinois has a larger population than Georgia, but Georgia has more reliable Republican voters. In the Democratic Nevada caucuses, rural votes counted more than urban ones, and while Hillary Clinton got more popular votes in the state than Barack Obama, it appears Obama will capture 13 of Nevada's Democratic delegates compared to Clinton's 12. Orthodox Jews complained that they couldn't vote in the Saturday morning Nevada caucuses. In California tonight, if neither Clinton nor Obama gets more than 62 percent of the vote in a congressional district, the two are likely to split the district-based delegates evenly. On the Republican side in the California primary, Romney and McCain are targeting the few Republican voters in heavily Democratic districts, because some of California's Republican delegates are awarded based on the winner of each congressional district, not the statewide winner. And when the primaries are over, under the Democratic Party rules, "superdelegates" such as big-city mayors—who have not been chosen by voters—could hold the balance of power between Clinton and Obama in a brokered summer convention.

What gives? Didn't the Supreme Court declare a "one person, one vote" principle back in the 1960s requiring the equal weighting of votes? And shouldn't this render most of these party rules unconstitutional? The short answer is no. Although most of the deviations from "one person, one vote" would be unconstitutional if a state put them to work in the general election for president, party primaries and caucuses are different. Aside from some really egregious no-nos, such as weighting candidate delegate strength according to the race of their supporters, courts are likely to stay out of disputes over the rules for choosing the parties' presidential nominees.

The reason for the different treatment is the hybrid nature of our electoral system. Party primaries and caucuses have elements that are public (the state often pays to run them, and they lead to choices on the public general election ballot) and elements that are private (political parties are not government entities, they are private associations). Private associations have a First Amendment right to exclude those who disagree with them, and to structure their internal affairs as they see fit. Presidential primaries straddle this public-private divide because presidential nominations are ultimately made at party-run conventions.

So, dear voters, should we use a causus or a primary system to "elect" the exam/final format for this class?

February 6, 2008 in Interesting outside readings | Permalink


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Primary: there are so many different options and so many variations that can be made to shift a vote it should be a primary. If we cannot get a majority to one option, we just offer amendments like the Congress would until we get to a unanimous vote. We could even elect a speaker for a day to regulate the votes and amendment process.

Posted by: Hyatt Shirkey | Feb 7, 2008 9:03:30 PM

A great video from Colbert Report about "super delegates" showing how the primary system is devoid of one person one vote. Tad Devine here is interesting in that he first points out the democrats honor this principle better by having "proportional representation" then concedes that the super delegates might actually decide things in Denver - what might become a backroom deal! Old-time politics - bring your cigars


Posted by: Scott Rowley | Feb 8, 2008 12:57:52 PM

My knowledge on caucuses are limited, but it sounds like it would be fun to experiment with in class. However probably not too realistic so I vote primary.

Posted by: Alexandra Dattilo | Feb 10, 2008 2:17:37 PM

Speaking of one person one vote, what place does this concept have in the Democratic Party primary? It seems as though the superdelegates are getting more and more attention these days, and what about Fla. and MI? Clinton and Obama are both making a push for the superdelegates in this close race, and superdelegates could very well decide the fate of the Democratic primary. So does this mean the race is decided by the popular vote in blowout elections but superdelegates in close races? If this is so, why? I don't know who has the advantage when it comes to superdelegates or who(Obama or Clinton) has the better approach. It is clear that both parties are pushing for their own interests in what could determine the primary.

Here is an interesting idea that Hillary has on the superdelegate votes from a NY Times article from 2/14/08:

"I think for superdelegates, the quality of where the win comes from should matter in terms of making a judgment about who might be the best general election candidate,” said Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s senior campaign adviser.

My first thought when reading this article was to wonder what makes a win higher or lower quality. Any thoughts on any of this?

Here is the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/us/politics/14delegates.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp

Posted by: Chris Stanley | Feb 14, 2008 1:39:02 PM

Chris and I are sitting next to one another and were discussing the issue of superdelegates and wanted to share our thoughts...

...my counter has to do with our perception of the primaries as some sort of popular election. It definitely is not. The primaries have everything to do with political party nominees and perhaps could only be characterized as a popular election as a facade.

Pundits like to debate whether superdelegates have an obligation to vote "with" the electorate of their respective states. My opinion is that, however unfortunate, they do not have such an obligation. They are the "all powerful" "big wigs" of the political parties whereas my circle of politcal influence doesn't have as much of an impact. One person, one vote doesn't really matter when we're talking about influence within one of the national political parties.

Is the superdelegate system corrupt? Should it be reformed? I don't know; maybe. I think that we have to look to the fundamentals of the politcal party system to determine where this reformation needs to take place.

We still have one person, one vote. It's just that my vote is not as important as someone else's. The phrase is not, "one person, equal influence." Maybe our vote is just to make us all feel like we're more involved or influential in the democracy of our nation than we really are.

Posted by: Trischa | Feb 14, 2008 2:00:52 PM

Maybe the superdelegates are loyal to the voters after all. Here is an interesting article that suggests that superdelegates are moving with the front-runner of the election. Some of Hillary's support has switched sides after Obama has recently rattled off 11 victories in a row. Check it out.


Posted by: Chris Stanley | Feb 23, 2008 6:23:49 PM

In effect, that not only do we see the world through a glass darkly but that this shadowy and indefinite view is as real as anything gets.

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