Opinion

Set primary schedule

With a shifting presidential primary schedule that often has resembled a game of musical chairs, we hope South Carolina Democrats will go ahead with plans hold their primary on the same day as the state's Republicans and that the calendar finally will be set in stone.

The schedule has changed numerous times as states have jockeyed to hold their primaries earlier in the season to increase their influence over the race. The Democratic National Committee had sought to schedule primaries so that a diverse group of Democratic voters would have a voice early in the season.

As usual, Iowa's caucus and the New Hampshire primary would come first, on Jan. 5 and Jan. 8 respectively. Then, the caucus in Nevada, with a large blue-collar and Hispanic population, would be held on Jan. 12.

The DNC planned to hold its primary in South Carolina, a Southern state with a large percentage of African-American voters, on Jan. 29. South Carolina Republicans had tentatively planned to hold their primary on Feb. 2.

But then Florida decided to schedule both its Republican and Democratic primaries for Jan. 29. South Carolina Republicans countered by rescheduling their primary for Jan. 19, pledging to make the primary the first in the South. And last week, South Carolina Democrats said they would ask the DNC to move their primary to the same day.

South Carolina Democratic officials had worried that, if the GOP primary were held first, it might hurt turnout for the Democratic primary. This way, both parties will be competing on the same day.

That also means the major candidates from both parties will be roaming the state in the weeks before the primaries, which should draw the national media and focus the eyes of the nation on South Carolina. It also is likely to give the state considerably more clout in choosing the standard-bearer for both parties.

An early S.C. primary has the potential to offer a leg up to the candidates without the bulging campaign chests of the front-runners. Those candidates will have a chance to compete on a more equal footing in the early states, and possibly gain some momentum for races down the road.

The one concern is whether the S.C. Legislature allocated enough money to hire enough precinct workers and take care of other expenses for the primaries. This year, state lawmakers voted to take over the job of running the primaries from the two political parties.

The idea was to ensure that the process ran smoothly with the rest of the nation watching. But lawmakers were tight with the purse-strings, urging party leaders to consolidate precincts to save money. That could, however, confuse voters who are accustomed to voting at a particular location.

It is exciting that the two primaries will be held on the same day, that this will be the first contest in the South and that the state could play a major role in the nominating process for both parties. We just hope South Carolina won't be embarrassed because lawmakers were too cheap to properly fund the primaries.

State would benefit by holding both GOP and Democratic primaries on same day.

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