On March 1, Super Tuesday, Patrick County voters will have the opportunity to help choose the Presidential nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties.
In our two-party system, it is almost a certainty that one of these nominees will become our next President. However, with the modern primary system, it is not up to party bosses or even to party activists to choose the nominees: every registered voter in Virginia can have a say in how the national convention delegates are allocated among those striving to win the party’s nomination.
Virginia voters may also choose in which party’s primary they will participate; by law, Virginia voters do not register by party and may participate in either (but not both) the Democratic or Republican primary. The Republican Party had earlier required a statement of affiliation to participate in its 2016 primary, but that requirement has been dropped, and there is no bar to participating in either primary.
It may seem strange that, given the importance of the primary in choosing who will actually run for President in the November general election, so few citizens turn out to vote in primaries. In 2008, during the hotly-contested Democratic nomination race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Virginia saw a record turnout of almost a million Democratic primary voters. That represented only about 22% of registered voters, with the Republican primary that year turning out less than 12%.
By contrast, the turnout in the 2008 general election reached 74.5%, the highest mark in the four Presidential contests between 2000 and 2012. Patrick County turnout was slightly lower, about 20% for Democrats and 10% for Republicans in the primaries.
We can do better. Voting is the both the most effective and the easiest way to participate in the political process. It doesn’t cost anything, except your time and effort to get to the polling place. When you vote, your vote counts as much as that of anyone else, whether they be big-money donors, elected officials, or lobbyists.
If you want to have a say on the important issues facing our county, please vote for the candidate that you think would do the best job as President. Choosing the nominee is the most important step before the November election.
Please remember to bring a valid photo ID with you to the polling place on March 1, in accordance with Virginia law. And although it is now too late to apply by mail for an absentee ballot, there is still time to vote absentee-in-person at the Patrick County Registrar’s Office (through Saturday, February 27).
If you have questions about voting, including ID requirements and absentee voting, you may call the registrar’s office at (276) 694-7206 for information.
We in Patrick County are lucky to have a registrar and Board of Elections who do their very best to make sure that our elections are fair and transparent and carried out in accordance with laws and regulations. The only complaint I have heard local election officials make is that they sometimes get lonely on primary election day, waiting for voters to show up!
Let’s make sure that they have plenty of company on March 1.
Chair of the