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?