One could easily assume that it’s too late now to lecture the electorate on why voting in primary elections is important. Most of the states have already held their primaries, caucuses, or conventions and the field of opposition candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has winnowed to two from its initial dozen. If you live in a state that hasn’t held its primary yet; is your vote even worth casting? Romney and Paul (and Obama) are already in place for the big time. Isn’t that what the whole thing was about? Isn’t it time to move on to something else?
Not so fast. You might think that “primary” means Republican in 2012, but that’s not the case. All 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for election and if your representative is retiring and/or has drawn a primary challenger – no matter which party he or she represents – the primary is the election in which your vote decides who runs in November. “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote,” said Andrew Lack. When one contemplates some of the idiots who eked out victories in low turnout primaries (Nevada’s Sharon Angle comes to mind, although I wish she hadn’t); truer words were never spoken.
Not only congressional seats but your State offices are on the ballot, too. And, as was demonstrated in North Carolina; you might miss something crucial in the way of a ballot initiative that could turn around to bite your figurative behind, if it passes. It behooves us all to know who is running in our districts and localities, and to be educated on local issues and ballot measures – just so nothing slips by that we would regret later, when we find out that it will take a huge amount of legislative effort and litigation to overturn it. John F. Kennedy said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” Don’t be the weak link.
Voting in primary elections is also important for the practice it offers in simply going through the process. Has your state passed one of those Voter ID laws since 2010? Do you need something other than your student ID to vote? Have you been entirely disenfranchised through some technicality while you weren’t paying attention? Better to find out during primary season and to do your complaining at that time. Then, the very next day; go about rectifying the situation and make certain you will be able to vote in November for candidates who reflect your values and who will not limit your access to the polls.
I’ll close with a quote from Lyndon B. Johnson, regarding the importance of the Voting Rights Act … something we all need to keep uppermost in our consciousness throughout the next few months: “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”