Primary disorder: A state as important as Michigan should count
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Michigan voters go to the polls tomorrow and the Democratic presidential candidates don't have to care.
When the sixth-largest state -- a diverse home to a major U.S. city, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the nation and the American auto industry -- can hold a primary election and see two of the three leading Democratic presidential contenders take a pass, something is wrong.
Technically, Michigan is holding both a Democratic and Republican primary on Tuesday. But of the top three Democrats in the race, only New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has delegates on the ballot and all three of the candidates agreed not to campaign there. That's because the state Democratic hierarchy, long bothered by New Hampshire's clout as the nation's first primary, moved its primary date forward in defiance of national party leadership.
Both national parties punished Michigan, with the Republican organization cutting its delegates in half and the Democratic National Committee stripping its 156 delegates from the August nominating convention.
That means, at least as far as Democrats are concerned, Michigan's election is not about nominating a presidential candidate but about sparking a change in the way national primaries are conducted.
Will it matter if the state's voters turn out in droves to puff out their collective chest at New Hampshire and even earlier Iowa? Probably not, unless the rest of the country agrees that the system should be scrapped.
Unlike the federally imposed date for a general election, primaries are scheduled by the states. The confusing shuffle of primary dates this year and in prior elections, and the resulting near-nullification of Democratic votes in Michigan now, are clear evidence that Congress should impose order in time for 2012. A system of regional primaries that balance participation by large and small states would work just fine.
First Published January 14, 2008 12:00 am