Presidential primary reform plan gathers momentum

Released June 14, 2005

The American Plan for scheduling presidential primaries received a boost this week when the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley voted to endorse the plan and recommend it to the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee for further action.

Also known as the California Plan, the American Plan provides for a more competitive campaign environment for presidential candidates. It abolishes the "front-loading" of the presidential primary schedule that has short-circuited many campaigns over the years. The American Plan balances the interests of small states and populous states, while preserving the principle of "retail politicking" in early states. Also, since the order of the states in the primary schedule is selected at random in every four-year cycle, diverse populations have the opportunity to have an early input in the political process.

Earlier, the American Plan received the endorsement of the Center for Voting and Democracy ( and Representative Lynn V. Woolsey (D-CA 6). The America Plan is also being studied by the Carter-Baker commission on Federal Election Reform and Common Cause.

"Reforming the presidential nomination process is a stealth issue. The structure of our political system receives very little public attention or press coverage," says the American Plan's author, Thomas Gangale. "Instead, political news is dominated by personalities, scandals, and the wedge issue du jour. People need to know that the way they will select the next Democratic candidate for president is being determined this year. The American people have a huge stake in this, and they need to take an active role in this process."

With the demise of the Delaware Plan at the 2000 Republican National Convention, the Rotating Regional Primary Plan, which was developed by the National Association of Secretaries of State, has become the "front-runner." Gangale calls his American Plan the "dark horse candidate" in this race, but it is a better plan.

"The Rotating Regional Primary Plan has all the drawbacks of a single-day national primary and none of the advantages," Gangale says. "Far from eliminating front-loading, it institutionalizes it and rotates it. Whoever wins the first regional primary of the season will be the presumptive presidential nominee, and everyone else might just as well stay home and not vote. We've had enough of that. The American Plan structures the primary schedule as a gradually accelerating process that keeps the campaign competitive longer, and gives the American people more time to make an informed decision regarding whom their next leader will be."

Thomas Gangale is an aerospace engineer and a former Air Force officer. He is currently the executive director at OPS-Alaska, a think tank based in Petaluma, California, and an international relations scholar at San Francisco State University.

More details of presidential primary reform from Ops-Alaska

More details about The American Plan