I’ve been trying to design a good primary system. Or at least a better one.

The more I think about it, though, the harder creating a good design seems to be. The Founders didn’t offer much guidance, because they didn’t envision the party system in its present form, and the nomination process slowly evolved to what it is today.

These would be my suggestions for changes in the Republican primaries:

(1) Only Republicans vote. A voter’s party has to be declared some fixed amount of time before the primary in each state. Each state can set the amount of time, but there would be a minimum amount of time they could not shorten. I’m open to suggestions on what that amount of time would be.

(2) No winner-take-all primaries, or at least fewer of them, and only towards the end of the line. Or, if it’s winner-take-all, the winner has to get more than 50% of the vote. Otherwise, delegates would be proportionally awarded. This, of course, has the problem of no one consolidating a lead as easily, and the possibility of the turmoil of a brokered convention. This sort of thing is one of the reasons designing a system that fits all contingencies is difficult.

(3) No early voting. Absentee voting according to the usual absentee rules. Early voting is unnecessary, and primaries are supposed to be snapshots of a certain point in time.

(4) Fewer debates. If there are a lot of candidates, the maximum number on stage is six or seven for each group. Every candidate gets the same question. No “so-and-so-said-such-and-such-about-you” questions designed to pit one against the other. If a candidate is attacked in another’s statement, the attacked person gets a one-minute rebuttal and the other gets 30 seconds after that.

(5) If no candidate has reached the delegate threshhold for winning the nomination, there is a run-off election where (as before) only Republicans vote. First numbers 2 and 3 have a runoff if they are within 5 (or perhaps 10?) points of each other. Then the winner of that runoff has another runoff with the number one person. This ought to make sure that the nominee is the person with the most support in the party. It would be expensive, but hopefully it wouldn’t come into play too often.

I’ve long been very dissatisfied with the primaries, long before the current primary season. The number of candidates, and the problem of vote splitting if there are too many in a particular category, have long bothered me. That’s what the runoffs would be for.

The order in which the states vote is another problem, one a lot of people have long complained about. But unless the votes in all states occur on one particular Primary Day, I’m not sure how to remedy that. But there’s no question that the early-voting states get the lion’s share of the influence.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]