Vote early

March 13, 2007

In the seemingly endless quest to make Maryland relevant in the nation's presidential selection process, Gov. Martin O'Malley and some fellow Democrats in Annapolis have seized upon the idea of moving next year's primary from March 4 to Feb. 12. This could allow a kind of regional contest in conjunction with Virginia and the District of Columbia that - under the right circumstances - might pique the interest of presidential candidates and cause them to actually spend some time campaigning here.

To this we can only add: Hey, it couldn't hurt.

Of course, it probably wouldn't help much, either. States have been scrambling for early 2008 primaries like blue crabs on a particularly tasty chicken neck. It's possible that 19 will hold primaries on Feb. 5, including heavy hitters such as California, Florida and Illinois. That will make it likely that both parties' choices for president will be known on Feb. 6 - if early bird voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina haven't already wrapped things up, that is.

But not necessarily. It's theoretically possible that an unusually tight two-way or three-way race might be too close to call by the second week in February. If so, giving Maryland voters a chance to weigh in three weeks earlier at least would give them an edge on their counterparts in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Vermont, all fellow March 4 primary states.

Of course, Maryland's having to face another year of irrelevancy in the choosing of presidential nominees is hardly unexpected. The current system makes it almost impossible for it to be otherwise. A far better solution would be to have states rotate their primary dates, perhaps by region, so all would eventually get a chance to be an early decider - but that would require a kind of foresight and evenhandedness rarely associated with national politics.

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