Rotating Primary Plan

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) recommended the Rotating Presidential Primary Plan in 2000, and the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform endorsed it in its September 2005 report.

How it works

Under the proposal, the United States is divided into four regions - Northeast, Midwest, West, and South - having roughly the same number of votes in the Electoral College according to the 1990 census. The Northeast region (in red) comprises of 13 states and 127 electoral votes. The Midwest (in yellow) has a 129 electoral votes spread across 12 states. The 13 western states (in blue) have 119 electoral votes. The South is the largest region (in green) with a total of 163 electoral votes across 13 states.

Proposed Regional Map

In the first round, the primary schedule will be as follows:

1. March - Eastern states

2. April - the South

3. May - the Midwest

4. June - the West

Subsequently, the regions will start rotating. In the next election cycle, the South will move up to first position, followed by the Midwest, West, and the East. In the third round, the Midwest will go first, and so on.

Primaries in each state would be scheduled on or about the first Tuesday of the month assigned to its corresponding region, but not all states in a given region would hold their primaries on the same date.

An important feature of the plan is that it allows Iowa and New Hampshire to retain their lead positions in the primary schedule. These states still get to go first before the rest of the nation votes in primaries on a rotating basis.


The plan eliminates frontloading and extends the race, thereby allowing voters to vet candidates over a longer period of time, and allowing dark-horse candidates to pick up pace in the later stages.

The plan divides the primary calendar along regional lines, but it also gives equal weight to all regions as they all get to go first by turns. Over a span of a few election cycles, campaign attention will distribute equitably over all the regions, and no particular region will permanently hog the limelight.

The plan would, therefore, do away with the pressure of orchestrating a de facto national campaign – a major repercussion of the frontloading scenario. It would allow candidates to focus on regional issues, reduce campaign expenditure by enabling more focused spending, reduce campaign fatigue, and promote meaningful interaction between candidates and voters. Candidates will get to hear the concerns and complaints of regional voters from coast to coast, not just in one corner of the country. They will hear about the no-tax pledge in New Hampshire and ethanol policy in Iowa, but also about union concerns in the Great Lakes, cotton prices in the South, or immigration in the Southwestern border states


On the flip side, the plan retains the prerogative of Iowa and New Hampshire to go first, and the consequent problems. Candidates will continue to homestead and maintain permanent campaigns in these states.

In fact, the predictability of the primary calendar will increase the scope of homesteading beyond just these two states. Candidates will know years in advance which region will go first in a particular election cycle. Hence, they will be encouraged to homestead in an entire region, and time their presidential bids in accord with a regional order that is to their advantage. In all, homesteading might extend over several election cycles instead of just a few years.

October 31st 2007
N.H., Iowa Keep the Candidates' Attention
Washington Post

An article showing that campaign spending in the traditional early primary states "has helped debunk the notion that an increasingly front-loaded primary calendar would diminish the influence of New Hampshire and Iowa."

October 30th 2007
Vote Early, Count Often
The New York Times

Jonathan Soros offers a new innovative proposal on presidential nomination reform.

October 25th 2007
Primary Season Has Already Passed Us By
Washington Post

In a look at the absurdities of the presidential primary schedule, Marc Fisher highlights the FairVote-backed American Plan as a solution.

September 26th 2007
Raucous system seems immune to change
San Francisco Chronicle

FairVote's Ryan O'Donnell and members of the Fix the Primaries coalition shed light on the "mess of a presidential nominating system."

September 6th 2007
A perpetual campaign
Rocky Mountain News

Another in the growing tidal wave of editorials backing reform to the presidential primary process.

September 2nd 2007
The Primary Problem
The New York Times

An editorial call to fix the primaries system, with a particular nod to the FairVote-backed American Plan.

August 26th 2007
Leapfrogging toward a presidential nominee
the Portland Press Herald

Imagine "It's a Wonderful Life" interrupted by negative campaign ads, and you get a sense of what we're in for if the primary states continue to fight to be first.

August 26th 2007
Primary jockeying puts uncertainty in election landscape
San Diego Union Tribune

With the 2008 presidential election year just months away, states continue elbowing each other to get their primaries or caucuses closer to the front of the nomination line.

August 24th 2007
Christmas politics?
Bradenton Herald

A Florida paper adds to the growing choir of discontent over chaos of the presidential primary system.

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