Cennamology Chief Editor
It's a beautiful day in late June, and Maryland is holding its earliest gubernatorial primaries since Eisenhower was president.
The decision to move the primaries to June from the usual September took many Marylanders by surprise, as voters in my home state are not used to voting during the summer. This was evident in the first few hours the polls were open today, as polling places were quite sparse - even though the Democrats in the state are experiencing the first competitive governor's primary since 1994.
Midterm election primaries tend to have low turnout in the first place, but holding them over the summer when many people are away on vacation and thinking about everything other than politics will cause even Maryland (which tends to have a much higher voter turnout than most states) to experience a decline in turnout.
If anything, primaries are more important than the general because you are selecting the candidate to represent your viewpoints in November. Even in states where primaries are not tantamount to election, they are still important because the choices in the general depend solely on the primaries. It is rare to have a primary with a lack of choices, and selecting a stronger candidate in the primary will lead to a more effective and informative general election.
But the real reason that I strongly encourage citizens to vote in the primaries is because of an all-too-common complaint among voters all over the nation - they are not satisfied with either of the major party candidates on the ballot. Well, if you do not vote in the primary, you cannot complain about the candidates in the general election (unless, of course, you are an independent who can't vote in primaries). When people forego voting in the primary, democracy is harmed because there is more dissatisfaction with both candidates in the general and less familiarity with the candidates' positions.
If you are a Maryland Democrat, you have three strong choices - four if you are a Republican. Out of seven candidates, there is bound to be at least one that you would be satisfied to see lead this great state in the coming years. If two candidates you are lukewarm at best about end up on the ballot in November, then you should not complain unless you voted in the primary - because you had the right and the civic duty to make a choice about who would be on the November ballot and you did not exercise it. If the person you voted for loses, you can complain about it all you want. But if the candidates you preferred are not on the ballot in November and you did not vote - do not complain about the inadequate choices in the general.
The previous generations of Americans have fought tirelessly to protect our right to vote in ALL elections, not just the general elections. Our men and women in uniform of yesterday, today, and tomorrow have died fighting to protect the freedoms we have in this country. But, non-civilians are not the only Americans to have died fighting to protect the right to vote.
The 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer was last week - marking the 1964 campaign to register as many African Americans to vote as possible. Those men and women at the first Freedom Summer did not skip voting or fighting for the right to vote just because it was summer or just because it was a primary election or just because there was no presidential campaign going on. They fought because they were sickened that the Constitutional rights of many Americans were not being protected. The right to vote, as guaranteed by the Constitution, was being infringed upon both by the government and by everyday citizens blinded by racism.
So if you live in one of the seven states that are having primaries today, please vote. Whether it is the Mississippi senate runoff, the Maryland governor's race, or the primary for one of New York's 27 Congressional districts - do not pass on your right to vote just because it is a midterm primary. Stay informed on all the candidates and vote.
Unfortunately, as Election Day carries on in the great state of Maryland, it looks like turnout will not even reach the already-low expectations. Many will be surprised if we reach 20 percent. That is embarrassing.