Friday, November 02, 2007

Our Broken Primary System

Things that make me angry include: people telling Stephen Colbert he cannot enter the South Carolina primary.

Yes, Colbert went ahead on his "presidential campaign." Yes, it's probably all a big joke. But the man filled out all the paperwork, he got all of the required signatures, and he paid the filing fee. And then the South Carolina Democratic primary committee voted 13-3 that he would not be allowed on their ballot.

Huh? They can do that?!?

So what's to stop them from denying any candidate? On any basis they choose? Near as I can tell, they didn't have to give a specific reason for denying Colbert. So if they didn't like a candidate because of their race, they could probably deny them too, so long as they didn't say they were doing it because of race.

If a person fulfills all of the requirements to be entered into a primary then they should be allowed to enter the primary! Period. No committee should be able to out-vote the process. Especially when it is a supposedly democratic process. The candidate has to get a ton of signatures, and polls certainly reflect significant support for Colbert. By saying Colbert can't enter the primary these committee members are essentially saying "your motivation for choosing a candidate should not be the fact that that candidate/candidacy is humorous." Who the heck do these people think they are, that they can dictate what constitutes proper vote motivation ("votivation"?)?

It's horrible. Our primary system is horribly broken. We've known it for a long time, but Colbert's joke revealed the system for the joke it is.

At least he'll get his $2,500 filing fee back.

Oh, and this is telling (and hilarious) too: the Democratic filing fee was $2,500. The Republican filing fee was $35,000.

Your class, your caste, your country, sect, your name or your tribe


Nate said...

I was upset by that as well. Colbert should certainly be allowed to have his name on the ballot in the primaries. So, the system is flawed, shouldnt we do something about that? Isnt there any legal recourse to change this? You are a lawyer Matt, do something!

Jeff said...

Kudos for the "Four Winds" quote - I love that song.

Basically, yeah, what you said. This may vary from state to state - I was involved in the NCDP for a while and I don't remember our executive committee deciding who could and could not be on the ballot. Though maybe I'm mistaken.

Nate, I don't know that lawyers could do anything about it. Colbert could certainly run as an independent or write-in vote (in fact, I think he should try to make the write-in thing happen), but it's my understanding that the SCDP can choose whoever it wants to be on the ballot.

Hiller said...

The criteria for being on the primary ballot in South Carolina are pretty clear--and while Colbert had filed his paperwork and paid his fees, he was not a "viable national candidate." Historically, the meaning of "viable" has been interpreted fairly loosely. But Colbert, who planned on campaigning only in South Carolina, didn't even come close to making the cut. I'm not saying he's not more qualified than many of the people in the field. I'm just saying the South Carolina Democratic Party isn't making this up as they go along.

Zhubin said...

I agree that the selection criteria are somewhat subjective, but remember not to confuse the Democratic primary with running in the race at all. The Democrats can choose whoever they want to be their candidate. Colbert can always run as an independent.

If you're arguing that not being able to run as a Democrat or Republican is tantamount to not being able to run at all, well, that's a whole different discussion.