Do Mega-Important Iowa and New Hampshire Primaries Derogate from Reynolds v. Sims “One Person, One Vote” Principle?

May 31st, 2011

The Times alludes to that point in an article, titled One Person, One Vote? Not Exactly:

Two economists, Brian Knight andNathan Schiff, set out a few years ago to determine how much Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states affected presidential nominations.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Schiff analyzed daily polls in other states before and after an early state had held a contest. The polls tended to change immediately after the contest, and the changes tended to last, which suggested that the early states were even more important than many people realized. The economists estimated that an Iowa or New Hampshire voter had the same impact as five Super Tuesday voters put together.

This system, the two men drily noted in a Journal of Political Economy paper, “represents a deviation from the democratic ideal of ‘one person, one vote.’ ”

Extending the principle of Reynolds v. Sims, should the Court get involved here, and weaken the clout of those Iowan and New Hampshire voters who dilute the votes of those in Super Tuesday states? It’s undemocratic, you know!

The two states have dominated the nominating process for so long that it’s easy to think of their role as natural.

But it is not natural. It’s undemocratic, in fact. It is unfair to voters in the other 48 states. And it distorts economic policy in several damaging ways.

What could the Court propose?

A more democratic system would allow more voters to see the candidates up close for months at a time. The early states could rotate each year, so that all kinds — big states and small, younger and older, rural and urban — had a turn. In 2016, the first wave could include states that have voted near the end recently, like Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon and South Dakota.

A rotation along these lines would enliven the political debate. Investments in science and education, which are the lifeblood of future economic growth, might play a bigger role in the campaign.

Stay tuned.