Opinion

Vote now or forever covet your candidate

Torrens Talk

If you haven’t done so already, then this Tuesday, Aug. 19, is your last chance to vote in the state’s first-ever top two primary. Whether you like this system or not – I do not – it is still important to vote. I am not alone in my dislike for this new system as evidenced by the lawsuits filed by both major parties. That said, it is better to vote than not otherwise you are letting other people make some rather major decisions for you.

Actually, that is my biggest problem with the top two primary. The only time there are really choices for office now is in the primary election. Given that most voters do not vote in primaries – although this year will be an exception between heightened interest in the presidential election and the novelty of this new system – it means that what shows up in the general election in November will be the whittled down choices from the primary.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction will be in November when people who didn’t vote in August go to cast their ballot and they only have two choices. And, depending upon the race, those choices may only be between members of the same party. I will feel sorry for those who were unable to vote in August due to ineligibility because of residency and/or age requirements. They will be left with only the top two, not the multiple choices that are on this August ballot. For those who chose not to vote in August, they will have to live with what others picked.

So, in a way, the “do or die” aspect of the election has really shifted to the primary. People from third parties who, in the past, including with the previous primary structure, could advance to the general election, will no longer be able to do so unless they outpoll a major party candidate.

The likelihood of that happening is very slim. Third party candidates come from smaller organizations that are less well funded. They are also generally less well known and a smaller campaign chest doesn’t help in getting their name out before the public. At least before they had two times that their names were before the voters – the primary and the general – and much more time to make their case for being elected.

Given how many people really “check out” both mentally and physically in the summer around here, between an August date and a top two system, it almost seems like there is a deck stacked against them. I wonder how long it will be before the numbers of third parties start declining since this new system really favors incumbents and the major parties.

For a state that likes to pride itself on being independent and populist oriented, this primary is really neither. The primary is the election with the lower voter turnout. Despite whatever high turnout this August might generate, it is highly unlikely, given the level of interest at the national level, that the number of ballots cast in November will be lower. So, with a top two choice only in November, how does that give the larger number of voters a say in who is chosen? All that choice has been sacrificed for the ability to vote across party lines and not have to declare a party when voting in a primary. It is now primary voters who will get the choices and will determine which two candidates everyone else will vote on in the general election.

And, in terms of being independent, having strong third parties is what really keeps the major parties in check. This system will only undercut the third parties, not strengthen them. How does that serve the public interest?

The only races that are not really affected by this primary process are the judges’ races. Regardless of whatever system this state has used to hold a primary, it has always been that if a judge receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, then that person is elected to the office. Thus, for the judicial races, the primary is the key to having an easy November.

Ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 19 to be valid. If you wanted choices, now is the time to vote. Remember, in November, there will only be two candidates per office from which to pick. And, if your party is not represented by either one, will you still feel you have a choice?

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