Saturday, August 15, 2020

Voices of Franklin: Colin Cass on voting in the Primary Election

 Voting in primary elections is very important, yet voter turnout in primaries is usually low.  (Embarrassingly so:  in 2016 the Franklin primary turnout was only 4.1 % of the eligible voters.)  But even conscientious voters probably think, “The real show is the general election.  I’ll vote then.  I know who I like.  What’s the difference?”

One difference is that who you can vote for in the general election is not settled until the primary has occurred.  If the people you like have primary challengers, of course, they must defeat the challengers to get on the general ballot.  So they will need your help in both elections, not just the general.

And even if the ones you really like have no primary challengers, you may still be wise to vote in the primary.  Remember, your favorites will not be alone on the general ballot.  Many offices must be filled.  Say you are a straight-ticket, one-party voter.  You do not want to find yourself obliged to vote for people you dislike just because, on a thin plurality,  they squeaked by the primary that you skipped.

And since primary turnouts are low, a few votes can make an outsized difference.  Impact per voter is greatly magnified.  And naturally, the bigger the field, the more crucial every primary vote is.  There are nine contestants in the Fourth Congressional District, for example, for the one place for a Democratic candidate on the general ballot.  If voter support were divided equally among the nine and turnout were at 2016 levels, then each candidate would have about 97 supporters in Franklin.  In such a race, every primary vote really counts, and could decide who goes to Washington.

The primary is September 1.  You can vote in person, vote early, or apply by August 26 to vote by mail.

Colin Cass

146 Longhill Road

Franklin, MA 02038

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