For those of you who don’t know, or have been too busy to pay attention, the Iowa primaries will be held on June 3. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore that most of the people I run into don’t know who is running in the primaries and don’t plan to vote in them. But many of these same people will turn around and complain about the candidates they have to choose from come November.
If you ask me, the primary election is more important than the general election. It’s also when your vote counts the most. The primary allows you to choose who you feel is the best candidate to run in the general election. Iowa holds a closed primary. That means you have to be a registered voter for a specific party and you can only vote for candidates of that party in the primary. But that doesn’t mean Independents can’t vote. You can register as a Democrat or Republican on or before primary election day, go vote for the person/people you think might be the best candidates and then change your affiliation back after the election.
The candidate that receives the nomination in one party will run against the candidate nominated by the other party. Candidates must receive at least 35 percent of their party’s vote to secure the nomination. If no one gets more than 35 percent, then it would be up to the party to choose a candidate at convention.
In some of Iowa’s national races — for example, there are five Republicans running to be their party’s candidate for U.S. Senate — it’s possible no candidate will reach the required 35 percent threshold.
Unfortunately, when that happens, the primary vote becomes irrelevant. A lot of states have a run-off system pitting the top two vote getters in the primary.
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Anyone, including people who did not compete in the primary race, can be nominated at the convention. That means that even if 300,000 Republicans voted in the primary, their votes wouldn’t count. Instead, the 2,000 or so state convention delegates would choose the Republican nominee. They don’t even have to choose from the candidates that ran in the primary.
The same thing happens in County races. For example, in Muscatine County there are two Republican candidates running to be their party’s candidate for County Recorder, Melissa Bell and Sarah Bodman. If on primary day neither one receives at least 35 percent of the party vote, then it would be up to the Republican party to hold a county convention to choose a candidate they want to represent them during the general elections in November. (Yes, I realize that with two candidates it is likely one or the other will get more than 35 percent, I'm just using this as an example.)
The convention can also be convened to nominate someone for a vacant position. For example, right now county attorney Alan Ostergren, a Republican, is running unopposed in the general election. County Democrats, if they wanted to, could convene to nominate a candidate to run against Ostergren in November.
I know it sounds kind of complicated. No one ever said democracy was easy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. If you want a say in who you get to vote for come November, go out and take part in the primary election on June 3.