Make Your Voice Heard in 2018’s Primary Elections
Voting can often seem like a cynical affair. When roughly 130 million Americans cast a ballot for president, it can be hard to see how one vote will make a difference. With that many people heading to the polls, winning the lottery may seem like a safer bet. However, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
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John Viscardo is the general manager of Car Craft magazine, which is published by TEN: The Enthusiast Network. Viscardo joined the SEMA PAC President’s Club in 2016.
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Earlier this year, as members of the national media looked on, an elections official from the Commonwealth of Virginia reached his hand into a small ceramic bowl and pulled out a small film cannister. Inside was a sheet of paper that contained one of two names—Republican David E. Yancey or Democrat Shelly Simonds. When the name was read, one would be crowned the winner in the election to represent District 94 in Virginia’s House of Delegates.
As we all know, American elections are not typically decided by drawing a name from a hat or flipping a coin. However, after a close contest on Election Day, Yancey maintained a razor-thin 10-vote margin over his Democrat opponent. After a recount of the 25,215 votes cast, it was Simonds who found herself on top, this time by a single vote. The next day, a panel of judges ruled that one of the ballots was ineligible, and the race was tied. As a result, the winner would be determined by drawing a name from a hat.
In the end, it would be Republican David E. Yancey whose name was drawn. Not only did his selection determine who represented District 94 in Virginia’s House of Delegates, but which party would control the chamber and its agenda. It was not just Yancey’s race that was tied, but so too the party makeup of the legislature. In the end, Republicans remained in control of the chamber. While this wild electoral tale will surely go down in the annals of American political history, it’s also proof positive that a single vote can make a huge difference in an election.
While November’s general midterm elections will receive all the headlines, a more consequential election may occur months earlier. Before a candidate can appear on the ballot in November, he or she must first win the nomination of their respective political party. In most cases, that is determined by the voters through primary elections. While the results of these primary elections are often thought of as foregone conclusions, recent history has taught us otherwise.
In 2014, U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the sitting House Majority Leader, shockingly lost his primary election to a relatively unknown college professor. Cantor, who at the time was next in line to the Speaker of House, was the first ever in his leadership position to lose a primary. Two years earlier, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, similarly suffered a stunning primary defeat at the hands of a far less experienced candidate. While the Cantor and Lugar losses marked the end of their political careers, Lugar’s Senate colleague, Lisa Murkowski (R-AR), only managed to retain her seat by mounting a write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary to another candidate.
In some cases, the primary victor becomes the de facto winner of November’s general election contest. In deep blue or red areas, it’s often a near certainty that the winner of the dominant party’s primary will ultimately win in the general election. In 2016, three of Alabama’s seven Congressional incumbents ran unopposed during the November election. In the other four races, all held by Republicans, Democrats offered long-shot or “also ran” candidates.
What each of these examples show is that your vote matters, especially in primary elections, when turnout is typically low except for the most passionate voters (frequently to the right or left of the mainstream electorate). In the cases of Cantor, Lugar and Murkowski, this was especially true.
The greatest tool at each citizen’s disposal is their right to vote. Voting gives you a voice in government, allowing you to choose leaders and shape the future of the country and our industry. Included on this page is a list of primary dates for all 50 states. You can also use the voting tool at www.semasan.com/votes to register to vote and learn the deadlines for where you live.
What are you waiting for? Get involved in your local primary elections today!