Secretary of State Grayson challenges primary system

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By John Friedlein


jfriedlein@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN -- Kentucky is no Iowa. While Hawkeye State residents expect to hobnob with America's political superstars every four years, Kentuckians watch presidential primaries from the peanut gallery. It's a matter of timing. The earlier in the year a state holds its primary, the greater the chance the race will still be a contest — and the greater the attention. Florida and Michigan this year went so far as to go against Democratic Party rule to have early primaries. “Is this any way to elect a president?” asked Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson during a recent stop in Elizabethtown. “It’s so front loaded.” The timing of these elections has really “boiled up” in ’08, he said. Kentucky, though, almost played a key role, but the Democratic primary has been effectively decided before Tuesday’s primary. Grayson and other secretaries of state during the past decade have come up with a possible solution. A rotating regional plan would divide the country into four geographical areas — with Kentucky in the South — that rotate through the first through fourth spots in a “fair and predicable” manner, Grayson said. Breaking states down into geographical areas would allow candidates to focus better on regional issues — such as immigration in the West — during the four primary days perhaps held once a month. Even with this plan, though, Iowa and New Hampshire may still go first as a compromise to appease these knowledgeable and dedicated voters, Grayson said. The regional plan, however, is a longshot, he said in an interview Friday after addressing members of the A.M. Rotary Club at the Historic State Theater Complex. The most likely scenario for the 2012 race would be to move the primary calendar back a month. The biggest problem is a time constraint: The Republican Party will set its rules for the next primary this year. Both parties would probably have to decide on a common plan. Another proposal is having the smallest states vote first. Yet another is to have every state in the nation vote on the same day. But one problem with this is that it could cause candidates to neglect smaller states. John Friedlein can be reached at 505-1746.