Primary reform good for Nebraska
Published November 9th 2005 in Lincoln Journal Star
It hasn�t escaped the notice of Nebraskans that in presidential campaigns their state is frequently ignored.

Now an election reform think tank has figured out a way to rank the states in terms of how much attention they receive during presidential campaigns.

Nebraska is dead last.

The rating system developed by FairVote, a nonpartisan organization headed by John B. Anderson, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, uses the number of visits and the amount of campaign spending to create an �attention index.�

Unsurprisingly, the report shows stark disparity. Twenty-seven percent of the money spent on the 2004 presidential campaign was spent in one state � Florida, which has 6 percent of the U.S. population.

But even voters in Florida can�t claim to have garnered the most attention on an individual basis, according to FairVote. That distinction belongs to Iowa, which is the second state in the country to select its favorites in a presidential contest.

With its small number of electoral votes and history of supporting Republican presidential nominees, Nebraska may always lag in attracting attention in the general election.

Primary election reform holds the most potential for boosting Nebraska�s participation in choosing the nation�s president. It�s time the topic be given priority. In this case what benefits Nebraska would benefit the nation as a whole.

Proposals for primary reform have been circulating for years. A Republican commission in 2000 proposed a system in which small states would vote first and large states would vote last.

The idea was buried by the Bush campaign, which sewed up the presidential nomination in early March, about the same time as the Gore campaign. The reform plan had been slated for discussion at the Republican convention, but that idea was scrapped, apparently because the Bush people wanted the convention to be conflict-free.

More recently the Commission on Federal Election Reform headed by Jimmy Carter and James Baker III voiced its preference for a series of rotating regional primaries. Iowa and New Hampshire would still be first. The rest of the country would be divided into four regions, which would vote at one-month intervals. Each region would take its turn being first.

FairVote says that proposal doesn�t go far enough. Instead FairVote supports the so-called American plan that also puts small states first in voting order, but also incorporates random selection to vary the order somewhat in each election.

Older Nebraskans can remember a time when presidential prospects used to come to Nebraska to seek votes. Those days probably will never return without primary election reform.

From Nebraska�s perspective either of the two reform plans would be a huge improvement over the present situation. As FairVote pointed out, it can�t get much worse.

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