Allia Calkins is a senior from Rochester, NY majoring in Economics and History with a minor in French. Aside from a brief stint with the local Democratic Committee in 12th grade, Allia has limited her political involvement to VPR and nightly dates with Jon Stewart (RIP). Her favorite Twitter personalities include Ezra Klein, Josh Groban, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Go Bills!
According to a recent tweet from NPR, “No GOP presidential candidate has ever won 3 of the first 4 primary contests and not gone on to be the nominee.” Dated just hours after official results from the Nevada Republican caucus made it clear that Donald Trump had emerged the victor, this tweet reads a bit like a warning from a top political consultant: You waited too long to stop Trump and now he might actually be on his way to becoming President. These four primary contests that determine the person who becomes eligible to run for President of the United States are held in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, but there is no valid reason why this should be the case.
Consider this, taken together these four states have 16 congressmen in the House of Representatives out of the total 435. That is less than 4% of total state representation, which shows how small the population of these states is compared to the rest of the country. Next, think about the demographics of each of these states. While the United States’ population is 77% White, New Hampshire’s population is 94% White, Iowa’s is 92%, South Carolina’s is 68%, and Nevada’s is 76% white. Additionally, only South Carolina had an average household income lower than or equal to the national average, while the other states had higher average household incomes.
So, it has been established that these four states are not representative of the country as a whole, but what about the people who actually turn out to vote? The United States has a notoriously low voter turnout rate, so maybe the hype in these states is enough to get people to the polls or caucuses. Unfortunately this is not the case. In the Republican contests (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/nevada-may-show-trump-can-win-even-with-low-turnout/) , 8% of the voting-eligible population turned out to vote in the Iowa caucuses, 20% in South Carolina, and 27% in New Hampshire. In the 2012 Primaries, the total Republican turn out for all of the caucuses together was more than 65%. This means that in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada, a minority of a minority has the power to set the stage of the election for the next nine months, and this is ridiculous.
The last primary contest will be held June 14 in Washington, DC, however it is very likely that the two parties will already know who they will nominate for the national election by then. It is not unusual for later states to have lower turnout rates than the first few, because by then the excitement surrounding the primaries has gone out and most people feel their votes do not even mater. In 2007, The New York Times conducted a poll that found that more than 75% of registered voters wanted a single nation-wide primary contest over the course of one day, and 50% believed Iowa and New Hampshire had too much power over the nomination.
In an opinion piece for Bloomberg View titled “Stop Whining About New Hampshire and Iowa,” Jonathan Bernstein writes, “The real reason why Iowa and New Hampshire should continue to go first is that they’ve gone first for decades.” Not only is this argument the cause of dozens of problems the United States currently faces, but it also does nothing to solve the low voter participation in these states, and in those that follow. In order to truly change the system and increase turnout, the organization of the American primaries needs to change. The election is long and drawn out, and by holding one, single, primary nationwide on the same day, the campaign season will be shorter and fairer to citizens in different states. This way, Americans can turn on the TV in June without being bombarded by political ads, and everyone will have a chance for their voices to be heard.