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The Rotating Regional Primary System is a proposed system for reform of the United States presidential primary process. Under the plan, the country would be divided into four regions. The plan is being promoted by the National Association of Secretaries of State.[1]

Map of the Rotating Regional Plan. Red is East, Yellow is Midwest, Green is South, and Blue is the West region.

Under the NASS plan, party primaries/caucuses to select national convention delegates would be grouped by region beginning in 2012.

A drawing would be held to determine which region would begin the sequence the first year of the plan. The next presidential election year, the region that held the first position would move to the end of the sequence, and the other regions would move forward.

Primaries/caucuses in each state of a given region would be scheduled on or soon after the first Tuesday in March, April, May or June of presidential election years. States in the same region wouldn't necessarily be required to hold their primaries/caucuses on the same day.

Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their leading positions in the presidential selection process in order to continue to encourage retail politics.

  • Regional Groupings Under the NASS Plan
    • East: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
    • South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
    • Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
    • West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Guam.



Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been lukewarm to the concept. In 2000, the Republican National Committee's Advisory Commission on the Presidential Nominating Process passed over the Rotating Regional plan in favor of the Delaware Plan. In 2005, the Democratic National Committee's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling ranked it ninth on a list of ten priorities, just above keeping the status quo.


Large initial primary size

The size of the initial regional primary may be large enough to prevent less-funded candidates from being able to compete.

Liberal bias

Also, several of the regions (most notably the South and East regions) show significant political bias one way or the other. Overall, this may be seen as a liberal bias: the South is quite conservative, the Midwest is neutral, the West is moderately liberal, and the east is more strongly liberal. With 2 liberal-leaning regions vs. only one conservative-leaning region, in more elections the parties may be tilted toward liberal candidates. This flaw can be corrected with politically neutral regions, mentioned below.


Map of same-sized politically-balanced regions. All 4 regions voted between 48% and 53% (and between 48% and 59% of electoral votes) for the GOP in the most recent election. Note loss of contiguity in the red and green regions.
  • Lottery system

Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, proposed a lottery system in his book, A More Perfect Constitution. This would use the same regions as above, but would wait until about 6 months before the first primary before selecting the order of the primaries. This would prevent candidates from "camping out" in early primary states. [2]

This can also be adjusted to prevent a region from being picked twice in a row, or to prevent any region that went first the last two times from going first.

  • Politically balanced regions

One criticism of the regional system is that the East is a very liberal region, while the South is very conservative. Given the stability of the voting patterns over the last several elections, regions might be balanced politically, at the possible cost of some contiguity. For example, instead of including Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey in with New York and New England, a balanced region might bounce over to Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky instead. There would be a loss of regional identity, and non-contiguous regions, but there would be a gain of political balance.

  • Combination of final two regions

In a given election, after the first and second regions have held primaries, the remaining two regions can be combined to hold a final primary. This would shorten the primary schedule, and leave no "fourth primary" likely scheduled after the nominees have been selected.

See also

External references

  • [3]
  • National Association of Secretaries of State [4]
  • UVa Center for Governmental Studies [5]
  • Kentucky Secretary of State [6]
  • [7]


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