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Importance of Primary Elections

Published in Blog on May 16, 2022 by Debbie Wuthnow

When I say the words “Election Day,” does the November General Election immediately come to mind?

If you’re like most voters, that term evokes visions of a Tuesday in November which finally concludes a months-long battle between the lesser of two evils. Your chosen candidate may not be an angel, but at least he’s better than the other guy!

What if there was another Election Day? What if there was an opportunity to not just vote against a bad candidate, but vote for a good one? There is such an Election Day, but it’s often overlooked by a majority of voters. It’s the primary election.

Primary vs. General Elections

In broad terms, the General Election is like the Super Bowl—the showdown between the final two football teams. In the General Election, the final two candidates (or more, in the case of third-party or independent candidates) in each race will face off to determine who will take office.

Before the Super Bowl, however, there must be playoff games to decide who can advance. The primary election is a bit like the playoffs but with a lot more at stake. It narrows the field of candidates for each elected office before the General Election.

Unfortunately, unlike in the Super Bowl, the best candidates aren’t necessarily the ones who advance to the General Election. The quality of candidates who make it onto the ballot in November will be determined by voters in the primary.

Unique Opportunities for You as a Voter

Often, the winning candidate in November is actually determined in the primary. Districts are drawn in such a way that over 80 percent of them strongly favor one party over the other (commonly referred to as gerrymandering). In those districts, whoever wins the dominant party’s primary will also likely win in the General Election against the other party’s candidate.

The primary election is often your only chance to replace incumbents who may not be standing as strong as you would like on the issues that matter most to you.

Because turnout in the primaries is less than in the general, your one vote carries greater weight. Fewer voters are needed to put a candidate over the top. 

The primary election affords a greater chance of finding a candidate who truly aligns with your values, not merely a candidate who is less bad than another. Your vote can be tailored to a candidate who thinks more like you do.

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