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There Has To Be A Better Way To Pick Presidential Nominees … Right?

Not all democracies are the same. Sure, the bedrock principle — governing according to the will of the people — is consistent, but there are lots of structural decisions that influence who “the people” are and how their diverse wishes are tallied. Those decisions have consequences, influencing who runs for office, how they campaign and how they ultimately govern.

Take our presidential primary system as an example. How we seek to find a consensus within parties in the U.S. is, as we’ve covered in past episodes of The Primaries Project, unique among the world’s democracies. It’s accidental and arguably doesn’t always do a great job of finding a consensus. So is there a better way of doing things?

Throughout the month of January, the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast has been exploring the system we use to choose presidential candidates in an audio documentary series. In the first installment, we looked at the accidental way our modern primary system came to be. In the second, we explored its consequences. In this, the final installment of the series, we ask how things could be different.

To answer that question, we look at how other democracies choose their candidates and ask political scientists how they would design a candidate selection system from scratch. To hear the episode click play above or subscribe to the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast. You can also learn more about our primary system on the FiveThirtyEight Youtube channel.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Is our primary system democratic?

Galen Druke is FiveThirtyEight’s podcast producer and reporter.

Jake Arlow is a producer at FiveThirtyEight.