There is an existing question about why the democratic convention is so late, with both answers focusing on it not actually being much later than usual and how generally the situation is resolved quietly and quickly.

So focusing on the general case, given that the state deadlines are a matter of public record via the state legislation why does this continue to happen?

It seems fundamentally unserious to conduct a general election requiring quiet fixes every four years to enable the candidates to be voted on.

Why have the parties and states not moved to resolve this by ensuring all nominating conventions happen before state deadlines by either shifting the conventions or the deadlines?

Biden on Ohio ballot?


1 Answer 1


The only honest answer to this question is that it simply wasn't an issue prior to this election cycle. The modern primary and ballot systems are designed around 1940s technology: the printing press as the dominant source of political information; trains as the most efficient travel for delegates, candidates, and political entourages; in-person discussion as the most effective form of decision-making. State systems are locked into this mode because (in general) our deeply antagonistic two-party system makes everyone risk-averse. Change is bad: it messes up calculations when everyone is struggling to grab that half-percentage point advantage. But that 1940s mode also meant that everyone allowed a certain amount of slack. States might set deadlines, but if a key event ran into a scheduling problem (due to weather, transportation delays, challenges, tallying issues, etc), states would just (metaphorically) twiddle their thumbs and wait. Most likely they would lay out the ballot printing form — yeah, remember, they did typesetting by hand back then — with the prospective candidates names (or with fillers) and not run any copies until the convention was over and the candidates confirmed.

Everyone expected that things would occasionally go awry, and no one worried about it overmuch. They all bowed more or less gracefully to the inevitable inconsistencies of the world.

It's only in the last election cycle or so that political parties have started to weaponize electoral policy, trying to turn loose deadlines into tight ones for their party's benefit. It's a sign, I think, of increasing disrespect in parts of the political class for democratic principles; a desire to achieve power by carving out solidified voter blocks, not by attracting voters. I mean, the point of these deadlines is to get the candidates' names early enough for government work, not to create a 'gotcha' condition, but that's lost on far too many partisans these days. So states are suddenly finding their 'soft' policies confronted by hard-line attitudes, and — as states are prone to do — are stumbling and fumbling to try to find solutions.

  • It seems worrying that all parties seemed to think it was easier to quietly break the law and allow flexible backroom fixes than make what seems like straightforward legislative change to either modify a date or change it to 'after the convention'.
    – Jontia
    Commented May 26 at 7:34
  • I guess what is left open is if the party machines will react to this change of attitude in the next cycle by looking at the different states legislation and moving their conventions to comply with the deadlines.
    – Jontia
    Commented May 26 at 7:35
  • To add to this point, most of the tools are relatively new to national elections. Keeping in mind 4 year cycles. These tools are all still pretty new: Televised debates (oldest) to social media and electronic polling (newest). In Politics (and NASCAR) rules get pushed to the limit and sometimes over the line. Trying to not paint with too wide a brush, but rules are only important to people that follow them.
    – DogBoy37
    Commented May 26 at 13:24
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    @Jontia: It seems worrying that so many people currently are fixated on the letter of the law to the exclusion of the spirit/intentions of the law. Again, law is not supposed to be a gotcha tool manipulated by amoral actors for personal gain. Law is meant to maintain justice. Are you suggesting it's just to exclude a candidate from a state ballot because of a scheduling issue? Commented May 26 at 14:44
  • 2
    @Jontia: And I'd agree with you because that, too, violates the spirit/intention of law. Legalism never trumps ethicism, J; you're not going to get anywhere with this. Commented May 26 at 21:56

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