SIUC Professor Says Presidential Primaries Start in the Wrong States

SIUC Professor Says Presidential Primaries Start in the Wrong States
By: Carly O'Keefe

CARBONDALE, Ill. - A Southern Illinois University professor has his doubts on what the Iowa caucuses should really mean to the overall presidential election.
Visiting Professor John Jackson of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute recently published a paper advocating change in the way Americans narrow down the field of candidates.  According to him, the road to the White House begins in the wrong states.
"The people who go to caucus in Iowa aren't representative of the voters in Iowa, let alone representative of the state or the nation, and the same holds true in New Hampshire.  So I think they are convoluted places to start," Jackson said.
On average only about 10 to 20 percent of registered voters participate in the Iowa caucuses.  According to Jackson, that group does not reflect the nation in its entirety.
"Census data show they're unrepresentative they're not very diverse, they're more white, more rural, and more prosperous.  New Hampshire is better educated than the rest of the nation.  They're just not even remotely demographically representative," Jackson said. 
Yet, Iowa and New Hampshire votes hold a lot of weight.  The winners of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary often receive a boost in the polls and national media coverage that in many cases helps a candidate gain momentum in other states.  That leaves some states with later primary dates to feel as if their vote can't turn the tide.  By the time Illinois voters cast their ballot back in the 2004 primary, more than two months after Iowa, some felt their vote didn't even count.
"So many people have voted in the other states, I think we're too far behind to do much good," said Carbondale voter Lowell Sturgill.
Jackson envisions holding primaries on only four dates, one day for each region: northeast, south, Midwest and west.
"It's amazing how much attention is lavished on Iowa and New Hampshire.  I say fold them into the Midwest and northeast primaries and let them be part of that," said Jackson.
The Illinois primary was moved up to February 5 this year on what's called "Super Tuesday" so Illinois voters will be casting a ballot almost a full month before they did back in 2004.