Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Super Tuesday has come and gone ? and as it does every four years, it has left South Dakota behind.

March 7 was called Super Tuesday for a good reason � voters in California, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, Maryland, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont went to the polls.

This isn't necessarily an all-inclusive list, either. Some other states and American territories may have held caucuses that day, but I'm unwilling to expend too much time researching that matter.

I just don't care.

You see, the presidential nomination process really doesn't matter for those of us who call South Dakota home. We're big in area, small in population, and a fly speck on the windshield of presidential politics in terms of delegates.

We will never have a voice in the nomination process. Not under the current system. Not without reform.

Politically savvy individuals have a unique term to describe the presidential primary races of today. It's called frontloading.

In other words, the presidential nominating process that used to be a marathon has become a sprint. Frontloading, when you stop and think about it, is a familiar part of our daily lives. Our kids do it on the playground every day. When the bell rings, they race to see who can be first in line for lunch.

This kind of jostling for position among states happens every primary cycle. But in national politics, unlike Jolley or Austin elementary schools, there is no authority to control the shoving and thus no rationality to the process.

As I write this, George Bush and Al Gore practically have a lock on the nominations of their respective parties.

It's a certainty that they will have collected enough delegates to be named nominees before South Dakota holds its primary election in June. Our primary vote will be an exercise in futility.

It needn't be this way.

A regional presidential primary system designed to scrap the current rush to "frontload" the presidential primary calendar has won approval of chief state election officials from around the country.

Under the plan, recommended by the National Association of Secretaries of State, party primaries to select national convention delegates would be grouped by region beginning in 2004 with the East in March followed by the South in April, the Midwest in May and the West in June.

In the 2008 election, the regions would rotate with the South moving to first followed by the Midwest, West and East.

Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their leading positions in the presidential selection process based on past tradition.

Primaries in each state of a given region would be scheduled on or soon after the first Tuesday in March, April, May or June of presidential election years. Not all states would necessarily hold their primaries on the

same exact day.

This reform is badly needed. The current system has become almost unworkable and has jammed too many primaries into the opening few weeks in late February and early March.

In 2000's presidential primary balloting, 24 states will hold primaries in a period of six weeks. By mid-March, three-fourths of all the convention delegates will have been selected.

The proposed regional grouping of states is:


* East: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.


* South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


* Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.


* West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Guam.

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