What’s the deal with primaries?

Krys Shahin, @krysshah

The California primaries are set to be held all day March 3, and many are concerned about how many voters will show up to actively participate. 

In 2016, only 57.6 million people, or 28.5 percent of estimated eligible voters, participated in the presidential primary election. 

Having just shy of 30 percent of voters show up for a primary election compared to the 61.4 percent in the same years presidential election shows how voters view the importance of the  primaries versus the actual presidential elections.

“The presidential elections are shown so much more in the media. Not everyone knows about [the primaries],” said student Ellyzha Astudillo.

The presidential primary is an election that is held in all states, the District of Columbia, and territories of the United States such as American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The primaries are an integral part of the process to nominate candidates for election to the office of President of the United States.

“We have the kind of government where by and large we’re not involved,” said political science instructor Milton Clarke. “We have apparatchiks or bureaucrats, and then we have these elected officials and they basically run the government. The days of direct democracy in New England when people sat around and voted on whether we accept a policy as a whole are over.”

 To understand the importance of the presidential primaries, one must know that some states hold primaries, others hold caucuses and there are some that hold both. A caucus is defined as a meeting at which local members of a political party register their preference among candidates running for office or select delegates to attend a convention. 

What this means is that registered voters pick their first choice of candidate for the political party they are affiliated with.

“With the presidential elections, unfortunately you get the ‘superbowl effect’ in terms of presidential politics,” said Clarke. “Everyone looks at the big one, but in fact, does the 49ers season begin with the superbowl?”

Some voters are still uneducated about what their vote in the primary election actually does. To put it simply, the primaries are extremely important in narrowing down presidential candidates, and are dependent on how much you believe that party wants to replace the sitting president in office.

“If you are comfortable with the president then the primaries are not going to be that important to you but if you really are uncomfortable with the current president,

 then the primaries are everything,” said Clarke. 

In a Democratic government, the only way to express your voice is by using your right to vote as an American citizen. The voters get to decide who represents them and that cannot happen if no one shows up to the polls.

“If you really want to have a voice, the best way is through voting… It’s the best to engage in your community,” said Student Success & Support Programs Manager Carla Rosas

As complex as the process may seem, there are ways to be an educated voter.

Suggestions for those voting are, 

“look at both sides, research both sides before you form an opinion. Look for the person who has the most ideals similar to yours. Find out a lot of information. Keep your eye out,” said Astudillo. “Never give up on a belief or ideal that you think won’t be represented because the person you wanted [to vote for] dropped [from the race].”

For more information about where to vote, to check if you are registered and more, please visit vote.ca.gov