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Mend (Don’t End) Presidential Caucuses

Problems with the caucus system doesn't mean we should go to an all-primary nominating process.

by
Adam Graham

Bio

May 19, 2012 - 12:00 am
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The supporters of Representative Ron Paul (R-Tx) are scooping up delegates at state conventions, particularly states which held caucuses, even though Paul has won a relatively small percentage of caucus goers in most of these states. The determined effort of Paul’s supporters to steal the Republican nomination is the latest in what has been a bad campaign season for the presidential caucus system.

Consider:

Iowa: On caucus night, Mitt Romney was eight votes ahead of Rick Santorum and the state GOP declared Mitt Romney the winner and also declared there would be no recount. However, this was a game of semantics. While Iowa never “recounted” votes, it did go through a process of certifying the unofficial returns and the certification process often led to slight changes in the final result.

In 2008, the certified results showed a net gain of 41 votes for Mike Huckabee over Romney from the unofficial returns. Given Huckabee’s solid margin, this didn’t matter in 2008, but in 2012, it made a huge difference. The final certified returns proposed a +42 vote margin for Rick Santorum. Because the Iowa GOP jumped the gun in calling a winner rather than announcing they would have a winner after certification, the entire dynamic of the GOP race changed in Romney’s favor.

Maine: Everyone wants to have a statewide vote. Unfortunately, Maine couldn’t bother to wait for everyone to vote. Maine announced the results of its caucuses on February 11, when only 84% of caucuses had voted and the results showed a margin for Mitt Romney. Subsequent results were added, but as of this date, the final caucus results do not include 100 percent of precincts. The vote was strictly non-binding, as national convention delegates would be chosen at the state convention, but why declare, “Mitt Romney won Maine” when all of Maine wasn’t included in the vote?

North Dakota: According to Green Papers, “The National Convention delegates from North Dakota are elected at the State Convention in such a way so that they best reflect the presidential preference of the Caucus participants.” The caucus results gave Santorum 40%, Paul 28%, and Romney 24%. At the state convention, however, the party establishment drafted a slate that included 20 delegates for Romney, 6 for Santorum, and 2 for Paul in order to reward party bosses and financial supporters. When a state convention delegate protested this allocation, she was told by the chair, “You weren’t on the committee, ma’am” as the convention ran roughshod over the rules and North Dakota voters.

Other Issues:

The Missouri caucuses were an absolute mess, with loud and contentious fights. One caucus even had to be postponed.

There were long delays in counting in the Nevada caucus, with the final results of the small caucus taking days to count.

The Idaho caucuses’ multiple rounds of voting kept one county voting until the wee hours of the morning, long after it had become clear Mitt Romney would win all of Idaho’s delegates no matter what that county’s results were.

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