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Why do we have an Election Day but not a Primary Day? No aspect of the presidential nomination process causes as much controversy as the primary calendar. The calendar starts off in January or February and ends in June of each election year. A total of 57 states and territories hold their primaries and caucuses over the course of these months. The Iowa caucuses always start off the calendar, followed by the New Hampshire primaries. The results of these contests invariably eliminate some candidates and bestow momentum on others. Many more candidates participate in the first few presidential nomination contests than in the many later ones. As a result, disproportionate power is given to voters whose states hold early nomination contests, while the citizens of states with later nomination contests have less or sometimes no voice in choosing their party’s presidential nominee. In most years, a party’s presidential nomination contest ends months before citizens in the late-voting states have ever had a chance to cast their ballots. To gain more influence and a greater voice, a number of ambitious states have tried to move their primaries and caucuses forward, creating a phenomenon that has come to be known as “front-loading.”
Every four years, citizens of the United States go to the polls to cast their votes for a new president. But the rules of electing a president in November and the rules governing how American political parties nominate their candidates for the presidency differ in important respects. In the general election, voters in each state choose electors, who subsequently vote for the president. The candidate who receives the majority of the electors’ votes becomes president. Although there have been calls to abolish the Electoral College, Americans have largely relied on the same system since 1804—when the Twelfth Amendment altered important aspects of how the Electoral College works—to decide the outcome of their general presidential election. In contrast to the relatively stable rules governing the general election, the rules by which American political parties nominate their presidential candidates have changed dramatically over the past two hundred years.
The way American citizens elect a president in November is enshrined in the Constitution and has remained unchanged for two hundred years. By contrast, the rules by which American political parties nominate their presidential candidates have evolved dramatically over time. In recent years, these byzantine rules have allowed a number of unexpected candidates to win their party's presidential nomination. In The Best Candidate, a roster of leading election law scholars from across the political spectrum - true-blue Democrats, die-hard Republicans, and everyone in between - illuminate the law behind the modern presidential nomination process and offer ideas for how it can be improved. This book offers a blueprint for how American voters and their parties could nominate the best candidate for the presidency, and it should be read by anyone who cares about the occupant of the Oval Office.
Thanks to a series of recent US Supreme Court decisions, corporations can now spend unlimited sums to influence elections, Super PACs and dark money groups are flourishing, and wealthy individuals and special interests increasingly dominate American politics. Despite the overwhelming support of Americans to fix this broken system, serious efforts at reform have languished. Campaign finance is a highly intricate and complex area of the law, and the current system favors the incumbent politicians who oversee it. This illuminating book takes these hard realities as a starting point and offers realistic solutions to reform campaign finance. With contributions from more than a dozen leading scholars of election law, it should be read by anyone interested in reclaiming the promise of American democracy.