Citizens in every part of our country, and people around the globe, have observed something they have never seen before: the variety in the election laws of the American states as each state’s voters participate in the process to nominate candidates for president. But:
Is it democratic not to have secret ballots when voters meet (in caucus)?
Is it democratic to require voters to remain for several hours, to allow fellow voters to encourage others to change their votes, and to hold the voting open?
Is it democratic to deny candidates who receive fewer than 15% of the votes any (proportional) representation? Is it democratic (in winner-take-all contests) to deny candidates who receive less than a majority, or less than a plurality, any delegates?
Is it democratic to hold both a primary and a caucus on the same day in succession?
Is it democratic to allow people who are not registered members of a party to vote in that party’s nomination process? Is it democratic to allow people who are registered members of one party to vote in another’s?
Is it democratic to allow voters to cast their votes on different days, over the course of an entire month (“early voting”), so they do not possess the most recent information about current events and the candidates, such as debates held in their state? (Indeed, is it democratic to have the primaries and caucuses themselves spread out over six months, ending seven months before the winner of the general election takes office?)
Is it democratic for a national party to allocate delegates to the national convention to states based on what the electorates in each state, consisting of different sets of voters, did in earlier election cycles — that is, not by the number of people who are currently registered in a state as party members, or by the turnout in this cycle’s primary or caucus — thereby “punishing” the current electorate for the “sins” of their fathers?
Is it democratic for a state party to allocate delegates between territorial districts within a state based on what the electorates in those districts, consisting of a different sets of voters, did in earlier election cycles?
Is it democratic to apportion the delegates of a state by territorial districts, making it possible for a candidate to win a majority the state-wide popular vote but not obtain a majority of the delegates?
Is it democratic to have 20% of the total number of delegates to be designated as such ex officio (“superdelegates”) when they were elected to their offices in a prior election cycle and they were not elected for the purposes of voting in a national convention?
Is it democratic to hold a primary or caucus but not have it result in the selection of pledged delegates — a process that awaits a later state convention?
Is it democratic for a national party to forbid a change in the date of a state’s primary or caucus at the price of either losing all or some of the state’s delegates to the national convention or having a second primary or caucus (a “do-over”) in compliance with the national party’s rule?
If any of these is democratic, is it democratic to have all of them in the same election cycle among citizens of the same country?
What this primary season demonstrates is that, while democracy need not be uniform in every jurisdiction, it is most important to have the rules set ahead of time so voters and candidates can understand them and abide by them.
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