The primary election is the first step in deciding which presidential candidate is most deserving of their party’s nomination. The person elected during the primary election is chosen to compete against the other party’s nominee — this year, President Donald Trump — in the journey for the presidential position.
Many voters do not realize the importance of the primary election. This step in the election process gives voters the most power, giving them the opportunity to decide for themselves who the best candidate is for their party.
After the phenomenon that was the 2016 presidential election, many people showed up to vote in the 2018 primary elections. According to research done by the Pew Research Center, 19.6% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2018 primaries, a 56% increase from the 2014 primary elections.
For those who believe that their vote does not matter, skipping the primary is seen as inconsequential as skipping a step in a skincare routine. However, those who want to have a chance of electing their candidate as the presidential nominee need to find out when, where and how to vote in the primary election.
The importance of this step in the election process cannot go unnoticed and can be broken down into three categories.
First, primary election campaigns are the most effective way for voters to become familiar with candidates on both sides. After the national conventions of both political parties, voters only learn about the positions of two candidates: the Democratic and Republican nominees, occasionally accompanied by a third-party candidate, like libertarian Gary Johnson in 2016.
Media coverage largely focuses on candidate press conferences, events and advertisements throughout the election. This free market essentially gives voters the opportunity to acquaint themselves with all the candidates and make an informed decision on who they will vote for.
Once the primaries are over, coverage shifts to the two candidates, so the primary election cycle is the best chance for voters to become familiar with all the candidates.
Second, the primaries have a key role in shaping the final candidate’s stance on certain issues. For example, imagine that during the last two weeks of this primary election cycle, Bernie Sanders drops out of the race.
Bernie Sanders is currently leading the polls with 28% of the vote, more than 10% above the other candidates. If he were to drop out, it is likely that the other candidates would fight to receive the votes from Sanders’ supporters.
In doing so, other candidates would likely gain support from Sanders’ supporters, making it more likely that they will win the Democratic nomination.
Finally, and most importantly, the primaries act as another avenue that allows Americans to participate in the electoral project and pick their leaders. Registration for voting in the primaries ends in mid-February, and the actual vote takes place on March 10 for Idahoans. If people go through the registration process for the primaries, it is more likely that they will vote in the general election since the hard work is already done.
People will be more likely to vote in the primary if their candidate is leading in the polls, and even more likely if their chosen candidate wins the nomination.
The people currently holding office are responsible for making decisions that impact our lives, but in turn, your decision could be the most important impact on our elected officials’ lives. If you think your vote does not matter, think again.