Another Super Tuesday leaves Kentuckians ignored in primary

Column by Linsen Li

While more than half the country casts their ballots in the most important day of the 2008 presidential primaries tomorrow, Kentuckians can only sit at home helplessly and watch the media’s overwhelming coverage.

On the day that political pundits have dubbed Super Tuesday, 24 states will hold primaries or caucuses in the biggest step yet toward determining presidential candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

When does Kentucky get to voice its opinions in presidential primaries? To exercise their power as voters, Kentuckians have to wait until May 20, the date for both parties’ primaries. With a primary date more than three months after Super Tuesday, Kentuckians are effectively disenfranchised in their right to take part in selecting presidential candidates.

It seems that the obvious choice for the political empowerment of Kentuckians is to move up its primary date so that their votes actually carry significance. However, Secretary of State Trey Grayson thinks otherwise.

In an Oct. 11, 2007 article in The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, Grayson, Kentucky’s top election official, said the state would not move up the primary date in 2008.

He said he doesn’t recommend moving this year’s presidential primary because it would cost $5 million and likely not benefit the state; on the other hand, Kentucky could strengthen its political muscle by keeping its traditional late May election, he said in the article.

Pardon me, Secretary Grayson, but I disagree that one should make the assumption that an earlier, therefore more meaningful, primary date would not benefit the state, even if such a move comes with a financial cost. Using Grayson’s argument, one can similarly conclude that, because an individual’s vote likely will not benefit oneself, that person should forgo his or her voting right just to save time and effort.

On a larger scale, most states shouldn’t be satisfied with the current primary system, in which states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have disproportionately great influence in choosing the candidates.

To make sure their voices are heard in the primary, Michigan and Florida took it one step further. Both states moved their primary dates to before Feb. 5, which is against the rules of both parties’ national committees.

With acts of rebellion come the consequences. The Democratic Party stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates and prevented candidates from campaigning in the two states, according to a Jan. 29 article on; the Republican Party was more lenient — it only took away half of the delegates and allowed campaigning in the states.

While Michigan and Florida bravely challenged the current primary system, their actions are not the real solution to the problem.

There have been calls for a national primary date, and among a number of different proposals, the most plausible one is supported by none other than Secretary Grayson.

Grayson favors a plan to hold rotating regional presidential primaries beginning in 2012, a move that would end the rush by states to be the first to vote, according to the Courier-Journal article.

Proposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State, the plan would group states into four geographic regions — East, South, Midwest and West — and the regions would rotate the right to vote first every four years. A lottery would determine the order, the article reported.

The state Senate has a different plan in mind. Senate Republicans started the process of trying to insert Kentucky into the next Super Tuesday in 2012; the Senate passed the measure last week even though Democrats opposed it, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Sunday.

Regardless, any proposal to revolutionize the nation’s primary system will not change the fact that Kentuckians won’t be taking part in the most exciting day of the primary season. Meanwhile, if it helps any, as an alien, I cannot vote in any state or federal elections and won’t be able to in the foreseeable future.

Linsen Li is a history and journalism junior. E-mail [email protected]