It is time to get involved in the primary and become educated on primary candidate platforms. By doing this, voters will be able to shape the general election ballot. Let's make the primaries PRIMARY.
Primary election turnout has historically been lower than general election turnout-despite the fact that primary results directly determine the general election ballot. Average voter turnout in the 2012 statewide primaries slumped to the lowest level since presidential primaries proliferated in 1972. Based on the 41 states which held statewide primaries in both parties, turnout was 17.3%, a 40-point underdog to the nearly 60% turnout in the actual presidential elections^1. In order for the November ballot to accurately represent the voice of a candidate's district, voter turnout must be strong in the primary election.
Low primary turnout means that less of the electorate has shaped the general election ballot.
Primary election voters tend to be more radical voters who support their candidate regardless of electability in the general election^2. In recent years, U.S. House and Senate primary election candidates who were considered more ideologically-extreme, defeated well-established and comparatively moderate candidates. For example, in 2012 Tea Party candidates, Richard Mourdock (IN), Sharron Angle (NV), and Ken Buck (CO) all who triumphed in primary elections over more mainstream candidates, proved unpalatable to the general electorate in November and were not elected to office.
Primary election participation is especially pertinent to ensure the best viable candidate in each party is on the ballot for the general election.
Primary election voters determine the caliber of candidates for November's ballot while general election voters tend to vote along party lines. Furthermore, because approximately 60% of congressional districts are not swing districts^3, a dominant party's primary candidate who makes it to the November ballot will most likely be elected. These primary elections are especially competitive in the advantaged party of constituencies in which one party has a clear advantage in terms of voter loyalties.
It's time to make the primary election the important election. Learn about the primary elections in your district and educate yourself on your primary candidate's platform. Together, we can shape the November ballot and bring the focus back to electing candidates based on their stance on the issues important to our success.
- "National Primary Turnout Hits New Record Low." Bipartisan Policy Center, 10 Oct. 2012.
- Gerber, Elisabeth R. "Primary Election Systems and Representation." Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 14, No. 2 (1998): 304-24.
- Hirano, Shigeo, James M. Snyder, and Michael M. Ting. "Distributive Politics with Primaries." The Journal of Politics 71.04 (2009): 1467-480.