States Back Regional Primary Plan
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A regional presidential primary system that would spread out the process for picking nominees _ and give different parts of the country a chance to lead off the process _ was approved Friday by state election officials.
The nation’s secretaries of state would like to have their plan in place by 2004, but they face a formidable task in getting approval of 48 states and both major political parties. Many states have pushed their primaries earlier for 2000 so they will have a bigger say in the selection process.
Under the plan, Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their leading positions in the presidential selection process.
The rest of the country would be divided into four regions: East, South, Midwest and West. Many of the states in the regional groupings have already started to hold primaries on the same dates.
Primaries in each state of a given region would be held on or soon after the first Tuesday of March, April, May and June of presidential election years. Not all states would necessarily hold their contest on the same day.
After the voting, the region that goes first would go last the next election cycle, and the second region would move up.
Officials said the current system has become almost unworkable and has jammed too many primaries into the opening few weeks in late February and early March 2000.
``As we sit here today, the presidential primary selection process will probably be all but completed about 13 months from now,″ said William F. Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. ``This will come at a time when most people in this country have not thought about the election.″
Galvin said the quick primary schedule hurts lesser-known candidates, forces candidates to declare their intentions too early and hurts voter turnout.
The plan was adopted by the National Association of Secretaries of State with a handful of dissenting votes.