When most people think of voting, they think of walking into the voting booth on general election day and voting for the candidates of their choice. But how did those candidates get there? The fact is, most voters are unaware of the preliminary steps it takes them to get there.
Before a general election, parties host what are called a primary. In this election, candidates go head to head with members of their own party to determine who will represent the party in the general election. This is why you don’t see multiple members of the same party running in a general election.
Why Do They Matter?
Primary elections give the voter an opportunity to decide from a sea of candidates within their party to be nominated by said party to run in the general election. Primaries are a opportunity to get to know the candidates and to take part in the process of choosing your own leaders. Unlike the General Election, you get a chance to vote for your favorite candidate, a chance you don’t get in the general election if they don’t win the primary.
This allows for the values you find most important to be made known to the politicians. Even if your desired candidate doesn’t win, their percentage of votes could still make an impact on the winning candidate’s platform in the general election. When voters turnout in primaries, campaigns and parties can develop a greater understanding of what the people actually care about- which results in having a better idea of where to put their priorities and focus on ahead of the general election.
Why Do They Matter Now More Than Ever?
Low Voter Turnout
Unfortunately, primaries have a historically low voter turnout, especially in years without a presidential election, like this one. In recent years, fewer than 15% of registered voters showed up, which equates to about 11% of the voting age population. When few of us show up to make our voices heard about who’s running, we’re more likely to be dissatisfied with our options on Election Day.
Politics, especially now, have been coined to be two sides of an extreme, leaving a lot of people in the mix not knowing where they should stand- leading to less satisfaction among voters in the larger elections. However, if voters turned out in primaries the same way they turned out for the general election, politicians and leaders could get a better understanding of the people‘s needs to truly represent them. It would create in most cases, a more moderate field of candidates which would also encourage more people to vote, increasing voter participation.
Every 10 years, the Texas State Government redraws the maps that determine who represents who based on that year’s census data. They place people in districts, districts that determines who in office represents them for an elected position. This is essential to the democratic process, to keep districts updated and fair.
But gerrymandering complicates this process when the people in power drawing the maps group together specific types of voters to solidify a district for a single party creating partisan districts. This means Republican districts get redder, Democrat districts get bluer, and purple districts disappear. Both sides are guilty of this assault on democracy.
Texas just completed this process. If you live in a blue district, the candidate representing the Democrat party is almost certainly going to win. The same for red districts and Republicans. That means that the most important election is the one that decides which candidate represents your party, the primary election.
How They Work Together
Primary elections generally attract more partisan voters, which is how extreme candidates end up on the ballot in a general election, dissolving interest and hope in US elections to possible voters. Improving participation can help to moderate the outcomes, making everyone happier about the eventual outcome and encouraged to vote again.
In Texas less than 15% of registered voters voted in the last midterm primaries. This leads to more extreme candidates being elected in the general election and in turn to them creating partisan districts- districts that dissolve hope, interest, and fairness in elections. Because we know now how partisan districts work, we know that the election was actually decided in the primary, where fewer people voted. It’s all a cycle that both parties use to stay in power.
What Can You Do?
Politicians (sadly) listen to two things, money and votes. Even if you went and only voted for one person, it will be counted. By law your vote has to be counted, your ballot cannot be ignored. Elections can come down to a small number of votes which can greatly impact how your state, county, city, and the nation are run.
Get out there, make your voice heard, and go vote! Because when everyone’s voice is heard, that is when democracy is truly at its strongest.
Why Should I Even Vote?
People have died defending this right not only here in the US but across the World. Don’t take it for granted.
Voting is more than just electing a candidate, it’s choosing the right policies and people who have your best interests in mind when making decisions that will affect our community, state and nation. When you vote, you are taking an active role in deciding issues. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.
If we want a fair say in our government, as Texans and Americans we have to start voting in every election.
“Our political leaders will know our priorities only if we tell them, again and again, and if those priorities begin to show up in the polls.”– Peggy Noonan
Important Dates And Information
Important Dates For The Primary Election
- January 31 – Last day to register to vote
- February 15-25 – Early Voting
- March 1 – Election Day for the March 2022 Primary
For an article on voting information regarding the 2022 Primary elections click here.
For additional questions visit VoteTexas.gov for more information.