What the heck are primaries?

A helpful guide, by Greg Tiller

As we enter a new year and a new decade, in 2020, we have entered into yet another presidential election year. Many students at Jenks High School will be able to vote in a presidential election for the first time this November. But that isn’t the only opportunity you have to help select our nation’s next leader. Starting next month, the U.S. will enter primary season.

In short, a primary is an opportunity for voters in each party to decide which candidate to send on to the general election, which will happen  November 3 of this year. The primaries takes place much earlier in the year, beginning February 3 in Iowa and going state by state. This leads up to the parties’ conventions in the summer, where they each officially nominate their candidate. As the incumbent President, Donald Trump is sure to win the Republican nomination. The real fight is on the other side of the aisle, where, as of now, twelve major candidates are in the running for the party’s nomination.

Voting in a primary isn’t the same as voting in a general election. There are two differing types of primaries in the United States. In open primaries, voters can vote in any primary they wish, regardless of party registration. In a closed primary system, voters can only vote in the primary of the party they are registered to, meaning independents can’t vote. In Oklahoma, our primary system is essentially closed, but the Democratic party has opened up their primaries so that independent voters can vote in them. In Oklahoma, 16% of voters are registered independents.

Many people assume that President Donald Trump is running for the Republican nomination unopposed, however, the President is facing opposition from two major politicians. Former Illinois representative Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. Governor Weld will not be on the ballot in Oklahoma, however, several other minor candidates will be. None of the candidates pose a viable threat to President Trump retaining the Republican nomination, but it is still important that Republican voters participate in the primary process regardless of who they support.

The Democratic primary is going to be the primary to watch. Many candidates have sought the nomination this year, but Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the candidates who consistently top the polls. In 2016, Senator Sanders won the Oklahoma primary, defeating the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.

“If you’re a Democrat, or a progressive, you’d like a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren representing you rather than a Joe Biden, or perhaps even a Pete Buttigieg,” says government teacher Mr. McCrackin. “If you’re a moderate, then Biden and perhaps even Amy Klobuchar are the two people you’re looking at to represent you. So it’s an opportunity for you to share your voice with the rest of the nation.”

It’s important to become active in the political process early on. Don’t just wait until around the general election. The Oklahoma primary is March 3, so you have plenty of time to start looking for the candidate you want to support. But make sure to start doing your research soon.

“Within the two major political parties, there is an entire spectrum of options,” says History teacher Mrs. Caruthers. “There’s not this one size fits all label like a lot of people believe it to be. So if you’re a registered Democrat, you have your choice of candidates that differ in small to major ways from each other. So it’s important to have your voice heard when you decide what direction you want your party to go in and what you want them to fight for and stand for. Each candidate kind of has their own view for the direction they want to take the country in.”

Are you unsure of how to decide which candidate to vote for?

If so, Mrs. Caruthers has a great tool to help you make up your mind!Just go to this site and take a quiz and the algorithm will tell you how your views compare with the platforms of individual candidates.

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