Iowa does it in one day. So does New Hampshire and, for that matter, most other states.
Not South Carolina.
The Palmetto State will hold its two presidential primaries a week apart. Republicans vote Jan. 19; Democrats, Jan. 26.
The cost to S.C. taxpayers -- about $800,000 more than having them on a single day.
The separate votes result from a single-minded determination by some party leaders to ensure the state's place in the national spotlight, an effort complicated by one party's rules and the scheduling chaos of the 2008 campaign.
To critics, it's a waste of money.
"What it fundamentally means is that you've got the taxpayers footing the tab for party-building activities," Republican Gov. Mark Sanford said.
"The truth of the matter is the Republican Party wants to have its day in the spotlight, the Democratic Party wants to have its day in the spotlight," says such as Hamp Atkins, the 5th District Republican chairman from Rock Hill. "And that's good for South Carolina."
While a handful of states hold their two presidential caucuses on different days, South Carolina appears to be the only one with primaries on separate dates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That's despite the fact that legislators agreed this year that the state -- not the parties -- will pay for and run both primaries.
Running the two primaries is expected to cost about $2.6 million, with about $400,000 coming from candidate filing fees.
In the past, each party handled its own primary. Legislators approved the change this summer over Sanford's veto.
Part of the reason was to better manage the elections by using paid, not volunteer, precinct workers. It was also to avoid legal challenges. In 2000, Democrats unsuccessfully sued after Republicans proposed not opening some predominately black precincts in Greenville County. In 1996, the GOP closed 60 percent of the precincts statewide.
"The alternative to having the (state) run it is to have two parties to run a national campaign which they are not competent to run," says Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Camden Democrat who sponsored the legislation.
"Everybody understood that it would cost more to have it on two separate dates, but the parties were opposing (a single date) -- especially the Republican Party. The overall good of having the (state) run it outweighed the negatives of having separate dates."
Republicans originally scheduled their vote for Feb. 2; Democrats, for Jan. 29. Republicans particularly fought hard to preserve their "First in the South" status as Florida moved its elections to Jan. 29, and other states threatened to move up as well. The early dates give states and their voters more influence in a nominating process that essentially could be over by early February.
North Carolina's primaries for president and statewide offices aren't until May, long after the presidential races are likely to have been decided. That's kept N.C. voters on the sidelines, watching Campaign 2008 play out in places such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
"If we didn't have the ability to name our date in this process, there wouldn't be a presidential campaign set up in this state," says S.C. GOP chairman Katon Dawson.
Given the volatility, it wasn't until August that S.C. Republicans settled on Jan. 19. But Democrats were hobbled by national party rules, which had already reserved that date for Nevada's caucuses. So they moved up to the 26th. State Democratic Chairman Carol Fowler said she hoped Republicans would hold their primary on the same day.
"It would have saved the taxpayers money," she says. "But they were not willing to do that. I didn't have the choice of moving our date. They had the choice."
But Dawson says, "To partner with the Democrats would have made us very vulnerable to a Florida or a Louisiana or someone else to take the advantage and move ahead of South Carolina."
Hamp Atkins says S.C. voters are the beneficiaries of keeping early primaries.
"It's a great opportunity to meet (candidates) and talk to them and take the measure of a person without having to write a check," he says.
Others in both parties wish both primaries could have been consolidated.
"It's a very, very inefficient and poor use of taxpayer funds," says Glenn McCall, chairman of the York County GOP.
Joe Erwin, a former state Democratic chairman, says South Carolina is "not a rich state."
"We shouldn't be asking the taxpayers to pay twice," he says, "for something that could be done in a single day."
Jim Morrill- 704-358-5059.
Voters don't register by party in the Palmetto State, so can vote either primary, but not both.
Republicans vote Jan. 19. Democrats, Jan. 26.