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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
February 7, 2008
DeKalb, Ill.—Northern Illinois University Political Scientist Matthew Streb says the presidential primary season need not be as long and grueling as a Chicago winter.
His solution: Do away with individual state primaries, Super Tuesday and the entire current system in favor of a national single-day primary election.
Streb convincingly argues in favor of a national primary in his new book, “Rethinking American Electoral Democracy” (Routledge, 2008). Due out in mid-February, the book provides a critical examination of the state of electoral democracy in the United States and an analysis of the major debates that rage among scholars and reformers.
Ultimately, Streb argues for a less burdensome democracy, one in which citizens can participate more easily. The presidential primary provides a prime example. Reforms could make the process less fatiguing on voters, Streb says.
“The national primary season might be entertaining, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he says. “It places far too much emphasis on results in early and often less populated states. And it’s the only election where we don’t all show up on the same day and vote.”
What would make more sense, according to Streb, is a national single-day primary with “instant runoff voting,” a process that asks voters to rank candidates in order of preference and ensures a majority winner.
The NIU political scientist says a single-day national primary would provide equity among voters, bring dominant national issues to the forefront, increase voter turnout and shorten a campaign season that is tediously long—in fact far longer than in other democratic countries.
In “Rethinking American Electoral Democracy,” Streb also argues in favor of abolishing the Electoral College, reducing the number of elections, use of non-partisan redistricting commissions and an easing of voter-registration rules and of ballot requirements for third-party and independent candidates.
“A central theme in this book is that we shouldn’t overburden citizens,” Streb says. “Democracy is a good thing, everyone agrees, but more democracy isn’t always best. There are times when it doesn’t make sense to have citizens vote for certain offices and go to the polls numerous times in one year. In Georgia, for example, voters have the potential to go to the polls as many as six times this year alone.”
Other reforms favored by Streb include:
More information on Matthew Streb’s new book is available online at www.routledgepolitics.com/books/Rethinking-American-Electoral-Democracy-isbn9780415961394.