Thursday, January 24, 2008

Voting in the Primaries

I count myself among those that believe that voting is not only a privilege, but also an obligation.

Nevertheless, I understand why many people believe that their vote is largely insignificant in the general presidential election - particularly if they are in a non-competitive (i.e. overwhelmingly partisan state). In the general election, the winner of a state wins every single vote in the electoral college. So, if you are part of the less popular party in your state, your vote may have no benefit for your candidate.

For example, Arkansas has 6 electoral votes. If 50.01% of Arkansas voters choose a Republican candidate, he gets the same 6 electoral votes that he would have received if he had won 75% (or more) of the vote.

The Democractic primaries work very differently in that it is NOT a winner take all system (unlike the Republican primaries). Primaries award "delegates" that are largely analogous to electoral college votes. However, the delegates in a given state are awarded in proportion to the total number of votes each candidate receives. (This is somewhat oversimplified. For example, Barack Obama won the most delegates in Nevada, despite finishing second in the popular vote) .

The key point is that your chosen candidate will benefit from your primary vote even if s/he does not "win" your state. So make sure you show up and pull the lever!

Make sure you know the date of your state's primary/caucus (and registration deadlines) by clicking here.

Here is an article that talks a bit more about the general topic of this post.


Tim said...

This is a timely post for me because I'm about to vote early for the Florida primary. Now, if only I knew who I was going to choose...

Jared said...

Glad it will be helpful.

Have you decided which party to vote for..? Or is that even relevant in Florida? Some states you can pick when you show up which party - others you have to be registered....

Anyway - if you want voting recommendations, I definitely have my favorites on both sides.. :) though I haven't decided yet if I want to give it all away here.. kind of personal...

Unknown said...

Some states you can pick when you show up which party

Am I the only one who thinks that this is mega-stupid? Why should I possibly get to determine the business of an organization to which I do not myself belong?

Jared said...

I think we should have the option to vote for whomever we want on a given election day.

I understand that in theory one party could conspire to alter the outcome of the other's primary, but the low probability of this makes me value the individual freedom aspect more...

Some of these primaries require you to switch your party affiliation a year in advance to vote in a different group. I know of a few people this year that will be prevented from voting for their favorite candidate as a result.

Tim said...

I registered Democrat... or at least I thought did. When I got there, they said I was registered with some small "non-affiliated" party. My guess is that the DMV lady made a mistake when I registered while getting my driver's license.

And yes, you can only vote for your registered party in Florida. Though I usually would agree with Steve on this issue, I really wish they would've let me vote today.

Unknown said...

I think we should have the option to vote for whomever we want on a given election day.

Do you think that you should have the option to vote for the CEO of a company in which you do not own stock?

Do you think that you should have the option to vote for the president of a club to which you do not belong?

The general election is the time to pick your favorite candidate. The primary election is the time for the party to determine whom they will offer to the public.

Besides, you're free to vote for whomever you want in the primary. If you're a member of the Republican Party, and you want to vote for Obama, I agree that you should be able to...for the Republican nomination.

Jared said...

I would answer "No" to both of your questions but I dont think they are appropriate analogies.

Your third sentence is a perfectly respectable argument. But it doesn't win me over. I still feel like I should be able to cast a single vote for my favorite candidate in each election s/he competes in in my state. I see the parties more as labels than clubs. I know they are more than that in reality, but I wonder how much they should be...

Unknown said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "labels" as distinct from "clubs." "Boy Scouts of America" is a label...a label for a club, with a purpose and a mission and a membership and a leadership.

The Democratic and Republican parties have meetings, they have goals and methods, they have members, and they have leadership hierarchies. Is this not a club, or if you prefer, an organization? They don't ask the general public for input on any of their other business; why should selecting candidates be any different?

I still feel like I should be able to cast a single vote for my favorite candidate in each election s/he competes in in my state.

So if Barack Obama is running for president of the Elks' Club in your state, should you be allowed to vote for him in that election?

Jared said...

I acknowledged that parties are clubs in my previous post. But, just a factual point, I would not be voting for their leader. That is the chairman of the DNC or the RNC.

My argument is based on my values.

I place greater value on the right of the individual citizen to have a meaningful say in who their leader will be than I do on the value of preserving the "right" of a duopoly to filter our options on our nation's leader.

Unknown said...

I didn't say you'd be voting for their leader. But you're voting for their something while not being a member.

I don't see what the primaries have to do with the "duopoly." Third parties have primaries, too.

Is your opposition to this filtration, though, not equivalent to a wish for the abolition of primaries altogether? Put everybody on the slate in November. When I get to the voting booth, I'll choose from the whole list.

Jared said...

You implied that a primary vote was the same thing as voting for a party's leader when you listed the CEO, club president and Elk Club analogies.

The fact that we have a duopoly in this country is very relevant to my placing more value on voters' voices than a party's rights. If we had more viable parties and options out of the primary's I might place more value on each parties right to choose their own nominee.

As for your last question, I would NOT support abolishing primaries as long a candidate only needs a plurality to win (as opposed to a majority). I dont think any of us want to see a "winner" of a five person race be inaugurated as President after only winning 28% of the vote.

Unknown said...

Fair enough, but even if the analogy to a leadership position is made, I think it's arguable that a party's presidential nominee is more powerful than the head of the party's national committee. Anyway, we digress.

I'm all for more viable parties, but I don't see how the primary system represents an obstacle to them. Many things do, but I don't think the primaries are one of them. As I say, third parties do have primaries.

I disagree that primaries are a solution to the plurality problem. If you hold the hypothetical come-one-come-all election, and the winner has a plurality of 28%, and you conclude from this that 72% of the population isn't crazy about him/her, how does having him/her win the primary and the general change the fact that only 28% of the population really like him/her? You've traded a plurality winner for a majority winner who got a lot of half-hearted votes because the voters had fewer choices. How does this jibe with your "everyone should get to vote for their favorite person" philosophy?

Personally, I would like to see some kind of ranking-based election procedure; you're almost certainly familiar with the idea. Each voter designates his/her first choice, second choice, third choice, etc., for as many candidates as you care to slap down on the ballot. It would certainly obsolete the primaries and it might even serve to replace the Electoral College (if you're into that sort of thing).