My vote won’t matter. I don’t like candidates put forward by the major political parties. Elections don’t make a difference. What I think doesn’t matter to the electoral process. Have you heard any of these complaints? Have you found yourself making any of these complaints? Primary elections challenge all of these. It is in primaries that the candidates for the general election are selected, and that important political questions are initially addressed. For example, Tuesday’s primary will include questions about South Carolina’s open primary system on the Republican ballot, and Medicaid expansion on the Democratic ballot. These questions matter to people’s health experience and in the way that elections will take place in the future. For independent voters, the primary system determines whether independents get to vote at all in primaries since a closed primary permits only those registered with a political party to vote. If you feel strongly one way or another about the primary system (meaning you think it should remain open or it should be closed), or if you feel strongly one way or another about Medicaid expansion then it is even more important to vote in Tuesday’s primary. In addition, to indicating which candidate should be the final candidate for the general election, primary elections give you a chance to voice your opinions on these issues that will continue to be debated throughout the general election.
It is also in primaries that your vote has an even stronger impact than it already does in general elections. This is because voter turnout is significantly lower in primary elections, meaning a smaller number of people ultimately impact the direction of the general election in terms of candidates running for office and salience of select issues. Ideally, turnout at primaries and general elections should be very similar. Typically, turnout is not similar. In other words, it is precisely in primaries that your vote matters the most, and where you get a say early on in the electoral process. You get to indicate which candidates running for an office are most qualified so when it comes time for the general election in November, you will know you had a say in the selection of the final candidate. You will also get to know that you had a say in the types of issues emphasized during the general election. Finally, you will know that you were a part of higher voter turnout, which means you contributed to an even more democratic community here in Newberry, as we actively participate in democratic elections.
Go out to vote on Tuesday, June 12! Do so to prove all of the complaints about elections wrong, to have your voice heard early in our democracy rather than waiting until the general election when the candidate choices have already been made, and to make Newberry a community which actively votes in all elections. Democracy works when we participate. Voting is one, among many, great ways to participate. For yourself, for your community, vote Tuesday! Then, mark your calendars and remember to vote again in the general elections on November 6!
HOW TO VOTE ON TUESDAY: To view a sample ballot, to verify that you are registered to vote, to know which kinds of photo identification you should bring to the polls in order to vote, or to find your polling place go to WWW.SCVOTES.ORG. This website has a treasure trove of information about the primary election, and all elections in South Carolina. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Be sure to be in line by 7:00 p.m. Remember that, since South Carolina does not require you to register for a political party, you will be asked the following question: “In which party’s primary do you wish to vote today?” You may only select one party, and you may only vote in one party’s primary, so be sure to look at www.scvotes.org to see sample ballots and determine the party primary in which you will vote. It is also a good idea to look at the 2018 Primary FAQs on WWW.SCVOTES.ORG. You can also direct questions to the helpful staff of the Newberry County Voter Registration and Elections Office at 1872 Wilson Road in Newberry. Their phone number is 803-321-2121.
Dr. Laura Roost is an assistant professor of political science and Political Science Program Coordinator Newberry College.