Monday, August 20, 2007

Random Primaries

I don't really understand the ridiculously complicated system of nominations and primaries that operates in the US, but one thing I do know is that people are often complaining about it. Thanks to Rob, whose comment led me to this post, in which Matthew Yglesias protests that "It would make more sense to enter the names of every registered Democrat in a hat, pick at random, and then let that guy choose." Well-said, even if he does wait on line...

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At 10:12 pm, Blogger Rob Jubb said...

So, so far as I know, which may not be very far at all, the primary system for US presidential candidates works like this: each state party elects a certain number delegates to the party conference the year of the election, which will then select the candidate. State parties do not all have the same rules about the way in which the delegates are selected; for example some divide the delegates up proportionally, and so have a winner-takes-all system, and some only allow registered party members to vote, and some allow whoever feels like it. Neither do all the primaries take place at the same time. Given the amount of funds it necessary to raise during the primary season, this places a premium on early success, since no-one wants to waste money on a candidate who no-one likes (apart from them, obviously; it's a collective action problem). Doing well in certain primaries therefore assumes immense strategic importance - New Hampshire, for example. This means that New Hampshire gets to select the candidates, which is a bit perverse, and also costs a total ridiculously enormous sum of money.


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