Kentucky GOP looks at switching to a caucus system just for Rand Paul

Although the prospect has been raised in the past, if you haven’t heard about it yet this story may surprise you. It’s no secret that Rand Paul is seriously considering a run for the presidency in 2016. But he is also up for reelection to the Senate in the same year. This presents a bit of a problem, since the Bluegrass State has some fairly restrictive election laws. One of these states that, no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once except in certain special circumstances. That means that if Paul is making a serious run at the White House and wants to be on the ballot in his home state, he would have to forgo his bid for a second term as Senator. But if he loses the nomination, then he’s pretty much out of a job. What to do?

Well, apparently at least some people in his home state are considering switching the state’s primary to a caucus just so he can do both.

[C]aucuses may let Paul avoid the issue in the primaries, as they usually don’t have a paper ballot. Steve Robertson, chairman of the state party, told Politico that he spent half an hour discussing the possibility with the senator at Mitch McConnell’s victory party.

Local GOP officials would have to approve the plan, but it could give the state more sway in the presidential nominating process if they move the date up. “I’m sure they would be very open to having a discussion and debate,” Robertson said. “But certainly, the questions you raise about how would it work, and with a body like that, they would certainly like to know what would the cost of something like that be.”

While possible, I’m not entirely sure how practical this is. Are Kentucky voters – even just the registered Republicans – going to make the move to fundamentally change their election process just for the blatantly obvious reason of benefiting one man? That would be an audacious gambit to be sure and raise a lot of questions about the integrity of the system to begin with.

As I’ve made clear many times in the past, I’m not a fan of the caucus system to start with. It puts additional limits on what time people can vote and, more importantly, many caucus plans eliminate the secret ballot aspect of the process. Not everyone wants to go down to ye olde barn and stand in a group favoring a different candidate than their neighbors, relatives or boss. But I also recognize that each state has the right to do it as their residents see fit, so I suppose they can ask for this.

There may be more problems than just cost involved here, though. Running a caucus is a totally different dynamic than a primary election, with all sorts of rules and structure to be worked out. And Kentucky would have to work it all out by next October. Would they model it on another state’s process, such as Iowa’s? Would they try to build something from scratch? If it turns out to be a disorganized debacle that doesn’t produce a clear winner, the embarrassment factor could offset the benefit to Rand Paul, which would really only be needed for a single year.

Here’s an alternate idea. How about they just propose a change to the election laws saying that you can run for more than one office at once? Other states already do that. Wouldn’t that be simpler?