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Primary Elections

Primary Elections

Thea Brodkin (Voter Service Chair) gives expert video advice on: What types of elections are there?; Why do we have primaries?; Why do states keep moving their primaries earlier? and more...

What types of elections are there?

The big national election of course is the Presidential election, it's every four years. And there's always a primary election where we choose our candidates. And then the general election, where we choose.... you're really not... your voting for the presidential candidates, but you realize voting for the people to go to the electoral college to vote for you. Even that, you're not really voting for President, just saying who you would like them to vote for President. And then you have the State wide elections because we elect our government at the state level too. And then we have our local elections, and our county elections which come sometimes at the same time as the state wide elections. Sometimes cities and counties do it on other dates. On odd, like instead of the even number years, the odd number years.

Why do we have primaries?

Primaries are designed to allow the voters to have a say in who represents a political party. Right now we are looking at the people that want to be President. So we are looking at who wants to run on the Democratic ticket, who wants to run on the Republican ticket. And there will be minor parties that are selecting candidates to run for president, as well. And then in November, we will have all the selections on there and we will vote which one we like. But that's why we do primaries, is basically the selection of the candidates to appear in the general election.

Why do states keep moving their primaries earlier?

Everybody wants a say in who the presidential candidate is going to be. So the states are jockeying who has a say. Traditionally it's up to the political parties and they have selected Iowa and New Hampshire to be the first and this is traditional. This has been going on for I don't know how many years, but many years. And other states like California who don't vote till June feel they're left out of the process because by then it may be over who the presidential candidate is, because other states have made their decision. California moved it up, so did New York, Pennsylvania. So now February has become the June primary. Now there are other places that do selection of presidential candidates by caucus, by convention. I mean there are other ways in having an election, but most states have a presidential primary.

Why does an earlier primary give a state more influence on choosing a candidate?

If enough states have a primary already before yours does and they select a certain candidate and it looks like a certain candidate has gotten the momentum and everything and then your state comes along it is almost like do I have to vote because we already know who the candidate is. But here in the United States we are really lucky because in the last, especially in the last couple presidential elections we have had candidates who did not do well in Iowa and did not do well in New Hampshire and then ended up being the national nominee. I mean that was true of Jimmy Carter, that was true of Bill Clinton. They did not win in the early primaries but they became the nominee because other states later on changed the way things were going so it is very important to feel that it is not over till it is over like Yogi Bera says because anything could happen.

Who can vote in a primary election?

Anybody who's registered to vote for that political party can vote in the presidential primary. However, even if you're not registered to a political party, you can vote in a primary election for the non-partisan offices and the ballot measures.

Do all elections have the same importance?

Importance to you, yes, you know. I don't vote for every candidate, I don't vote for every issue; if I don't feel I know enough, I leave it blank, or I may not even turn out if I feel it's something that I don't want a say in. But most of the time there's something on the ballot that I feel is important to me and I will go to vote even if it's only one thing on that ballot.