A friendly, non-partisan reminder:
September 30, 2000 11:41 PM   Subscribe

A friendly, non-partisan reminder: If you haven't done so already, you've exactly 10 days left to register to vote. If you've had a change of address recently, you'll need to register again. Remember, this election isn't simply about the presidency. Depending on where you live, every office from congressperson to school board president could be up for grabs. Register now, and make a difference in November!
posted by aladfar (15 comments total)
Because the deadline is so close, BeAVoter.com is no longer accepting online registration. Thus, my link no longer functions. This, however, is no excuse! Stop by the post office and grab a registration form.
posted by aladfar at 11:44 PM on September 30, 2000

I was going to say... I used beavoter and it took fore....ev....er to show up.
posted by mathowie at 11:57 PM on September 30, 2000

This is a silly question, but who would I call to make sure I was an independent voter (ie that I could vote for whomever the hell I wanted)?

I re-registered when I got my driver's license and I *think* I was an independant.
posted by bkdelong at 7:36 AM on October 1, 2000

I thought you could always vote for whoever you want?
posted by howa2396 at 8:55 AM on October 1, 2000

At least in IL, you have to declare yourself with a party or independent in primaries only.
posted by hijinx at 9:04 AM on October 1, 2000

Correct - in the final election, all parties will be represented on the ballott. As hijinx pointed out, it's only in the primary (which is, of course, specific to each party) that you have to declare yourself one way or the other.
posted by aladfar at 9:38 AM on October 1, 2000

aladfar: the primary system you're describing is the "closed primary". Some states, like the one I live in, use an "open primary" in which you never have to declare party affiliations at all.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:34 PM on October 1, 2000

In Wisconsin, you can register AT THE POLLS... We have same-day registration.
posted by UWliberal at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2000

Well, given the recent Supreme Court decision, open primaries may not be around much longer.
posted by Aaaugh! at 1:52 PM on October 1, 2000

Mars: Does this mean that you can vote in both primaries? I don't understand how an open primary would work . . .

posted by aladfar at 3:16 PM on October 1, 2000

Minnesota also has same-day registration, and you don't have to declare any party to vote in the general election. Just bring proof of residency, like a driver's license or state ID.
posted by Electric Elf at 3:24 PM on October 1, 2000

Bkdelong, if you're registered, you should have received information about your polling place in the mail by now. It should have information about your party affiliation, but since this is a general election, it doesn't matter what party you're a member of. You can vote for anyone you want. If you haven't gotten that in the mail yet, you probably should contact the board of elections in your state and find out what's up.

Aladfar, (loads of backing info coming up, pardon me if I cover something you already know (-:) when you register to vote, you have the option of joining one of the political parties, or affiliating with none of them. Come national elections (like the one coming up), it doesn't matter what party you've signed up with. You can vote for anyone you want.

Primaries, on the other hand, are a slightly different matter. Primary elections determine whom each party will be running for each office. They were brought about, in part, to ensure that every member of a political party had a choice in selecting the candidate that their party would run. Prior to primary elections, candidate selections were made by the omnipresent party bosses, and the selection process was ripe with graft and back room deals. (I always wanted to say ripe with graft). Of course, now the party bosses just throw their support and (soft) money behind the candidate they want to run for office, and usually get their way.

Over the years, several states have come up with different primary schemes in hopes of improving voter turnout, participation, etc. While the details vary from state to state, there seem to be three different basic categories.

Closed Primary:
This is what happens in New York, so it's what I’m most familiar with. Here, you can only vote in the primary for the party you are affiliated with. If you're a member of the democratic party, you vote in their primary. A member of the republican party? You vote in their party. Not affiliated with a party? You don't get to vote in a primary. This is how the system was originally set up to work.

Semi-Open Primary:
Some states have a semi-open policy, where you can choose which party's primary you'll vote in. For example, you may be registered with the independence polity, but on Election Day you can decide to vote in the Republican Party primary. I'm not sure how this is legally handed . . . for example, does this mean you've swapped party affiliations for good, or just for the day?

Fully Open Primary:
Finally, some states have a completely open primary, (like Mars's) Rather than picking one party on election day and voting for their candidates, (as in an semi-open primary), a fully open primary allows you vote on a candidate by candidate basis. For example, you could choose to vote on the Republican's presidential candidate, but then cast a vote deciding who would run for senate on the Democrats ticket.

As Aaaugh pointed out, a recent Supreme Court Decision cast the future of completely open primaries into doubt. Speaking from a strictly legal standpoint, this makes sense. The purpose of primaries is for a political party to decide whom it will run for office in an election. Open primaries allow people who are not affiliated with a particular party, and may in fact be diametrically opposed to it, to influence the selection of a candidate for that party. Semi-Open primaries should still be safe, since you're affiliating yourself with one party or the other on Election Day.

The whole thing is a mess, really. Open primaries do violate some of the political parties rights, but with all the money and favoritism going on behind the scenes, closed primaries offer voters less and less of a choice.
posted by alana at 4:43 PM on October 1, 2000

I re-registered to vote in massachusetts just so I could vote in the primaries there (and switched back to vote in the presidentials here in pennsylvania). massachusetts primaries are semi-open, and the party change is permanent until you change it.

for instance, I registered in massachusetts as unenrolled (ie, not affiliated with a party). that gave me the option of choosing which primary I could vote in. I voted in the republican primary by absentee ballot, and my party affiliation was switched to republican. until I re-registered as a pennsylvania resident with independent affiliation, I was a registered republican in massachusetts. (I could have re-registered as unenrolled in massachusetts if I had wanted to be rid of my republican standing.)

I think there are actually more variations on the semi open primaries than that, and not all of them permanently switch your party affliliation. I'm not completely sure though. I think in some states you can choose the primary no matter how you're registered, but in other states you can only vote in the primary for your party *unless* you're independent, and then you get to choose.
posted by rabi at 7:10 PM on October 1, 2000

Thank you for the enlightening commentary alan. I wasn't aware of all the different primary schemes. Armed with the information you've provided, I can shed a bit more light on the 'Semi Open Primary' as that's what we've got here in Illinois.

This year, I decided to vote in the Republican primary though I'm technically a registered Democrat. Because Bradley (my candidate of choice) was off the ballot, and because the Democratic candidate for congress in my district was unopposed, I determined that this was the only way I could really make a difference.

The election judges do keep track of which ballot you request, but this doesn't change your party affiliation. The judges (after covering up the names) showed me that several voters have switched between parties a number of times. In essence, I was simply a Republican for the day.

Of course, I was a most subversive Republican. I cast a vote for the candidate considered to be most extreme - hence, the one easiest for the Democrat to defeat. I did the same with the Presidential candidates. Yes, I'm proud to say that I voted for Alan Keyes.

While I don't feel particularly bad about this, it's this type of 'bad faith' voting that causes people to question this primary method. I believe, however, that it's a good system. Rather than wasting a vote on an unopposed candidate, voters can express themselves by casting a negative vote in the opposite party.

Ptoblems arise, however, when there's a powerful, unopposed, incumbant in office. In theory, the incumbant could encourage her supporters to vote in the opposing primary, setting herself up with a political patsy come the final election.

Gosh, ain't democracy great?
posted by aladfar at 9:37 PM on October 1, 2000

I never vote in primaries because I refuse to join any party. Why can't we be presented with all the choices for president, for every party, and select the one we wish? There is no need choose someone for every party, and we can improve the secret ballot.
posted by thirteen at 8:15 AM on October 2, 2000

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