Primary Colors

Should Illinois move its primary up to February 5th in 2008? Illinois House Speaker (and Democratic Party Chair) Mike Madigan has introduced legislation to do just that, claiming that an earlier primary would boost the fledgling campaign of our very own favorite son, Sen. Barack Obama.

With Senate President Emil Jones and Governor Blagojevich both favorable to the idea, the earlier primary looks likely to happen, but I’m still not sure if I support this. I certainly favor giving Illinois voters (both Democratic & Republican) a say in who our next president is. I think it would have been smarter for Speaker Madigan to sell this as the reason for the date change, not helping Obama. Also as president of the College Democrats, I favor anything that gets our members hooked in and busy early; having to circulate ballot petitions as early as mid August would certainly do the trick.

What are some of the drawbacks of this plan? Well for starters, have you ever gone door to door in January and February? As someone who has, I can tell you it ain’t much fun. County Clerk Mark Shelden was correct (I can’t believe I said that) when he pointed out that if there had been a primary this year on Feb. 5th, voters would have had to battle a blizzard to get to the polls. Besides the obvious weather issues, I think a very early primary unfairly favors incumbents and wealthy self-funded candidates, who don’t have to rely on going to door to build name recognition as much as challengers and grassroots candidates.

What do you think?

4 Comments so far

  1. curious, on 3/5/07 at 11:12pm said:

    I don’t think anyone will consider an Obama win in Illinois to be of much significance. Sure, Hillary will likely be popular here too, but with this being Obama’s home state I suspect he would do really well here. If I’m right, moving up the primary really only stands to hurt him. If he wins, it’s no big deal. But if he loses, then it’s a story—and not a good one.

  2. Justin Cajindos, on 3/6/07 at 1:17am said:

    That’s why some people are puzzled Speaker Madigan is claiming the point of moving up the primary is to help Obama. I suspect that on Feb. 5th whomever wins most of the primaries on that date (it looks like New York and California may hold their primary on Feb. 5th as well) will lock up the nomination, regardless of whether or not Obama wins Illinois.

    I think the best reason for moving our primary up to Feb. 5th is to give Illinois voters, both Dem and GOP, a chance to vote in a presidential primary before any candidate has the nomination locked up already. If you recall, in 2004 Kerry was already the defacto Dem nominee several weeks before the Illinois Primary in mid March. According to Bill Richardson, however, the race may already be over BEFORE Feb 5th if one candidate sweeps Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

  3. Brandon Bowersox, on 3/11/07 at 3:36pm said:

    The primary system — whereby different states hold a primary or caucus on different dates — seems to work against the “50-state strategy” and undermine the ideal that each voter in each district deserves a chance to interact with the candidates and weigh the issues.

    Has anyone proposed moving all primaries to one day? Or do people feel that “rolling” elections actually increase voter-candidate contact and involvement by spreading the election activities out over a longer time period?

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