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Editorial: Call for reform

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By The Staff

ISSUE: Primary season winding down

OUR VIEW: Time for some common sense

After more than four tedious months of primary elections and caucuses that began the first two weeks of January in the frosted, rolling countryside of Iowa and cozy hamlets of New Hampshire, the voters of Kentucky will be in the national political spotlight briefly on Tuesday.

Well, Kentucky Democrats anyway. They can’t clinch their party’s nomination for either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama. They can contribute to the campaign rhetoric but at least their party nomination hasn’t been decided before the state’s traditional late-in-the-season primary. For Republicans voters, John McCain is presumed to be their nominee. Independents can’t vote Tuesday because they aren’t registered as members of either party selecting convention delegates.

Nevertheless, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson expects a significant turnout Tuesday because of the interest stimulated by the primaries and caucuses. He said in Hardin County last week that the number of absentee ballots already received indicates a substantial vote.

Some 14,000 Kentucky voters have switched their party registration since the beginning of the year. However, they will be disappointed to learn Tuesday, if they haven’t already, that they won’t be allowed to vote in their new party’s primary election … or their old party’s, either. The deadline for changing parties was before Jan. 1 to be eligible to vote Tuesday. The General Assembly should take a look at that overly strict requirement.

Many voters probably are going to feel as if they’ve walked through a time warp Tuesday when the poll workers present them paper ballots to be marked and deposited in a scanner to be counted. Hardin is one of seven Kentucky counties to begin using the new, old voting technology. More will follow in the fall.

Once this primary season is history, maybe the powers that be will take seriously the need for a more structured method of selected candidates for president. The suggestions for election reform range from one national primary to a series of regional primary elections. When all is told, the amount of money spent on primaries this year will be sickening, as the frenzied candidates jetted from coast to coast and border to border for brief campaign appearances.

So many primaries are scheduled early in the season that few candidates can survive long enough to compete in states with a diversity of demographics. The whole system seems geared to guaranteeing the election of senators. Now, we ask you, what has the U.S. Senate accomplished that would recommend any of its members to run the whole country?

As chairman of the National Association of Secretaries of State, the states’ chief election officers, Kentucky’s Grayson is working on a plan to create a series of regional primaries that would help to eliminate a great deal of that wasteful fund-raising time and spending by the candidates. The regions would include, for instance, West, South, Midwest and East. Kentucky would vote with the South.

Many details remain to be worked out; other proposed plans to evaluate and compromises to be made. But restoring common sense and order to today’s primary election chaos should remain one of this nation’s most urgent priorities before the next round of presidential primaries is upon us.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.