Primary elections lack sizzle of general elections, especially among young voters
DECATUR-- In a time when political party lines are dug deeper than ever, more and more young voters are neglecting to pick a side.
With the primary election just weeks away, associate professor of Political Science at Richland Community College Larry Klugman says a somewhat apathetic attitudes towards the election isn’t anything new, “Primary elections have traditionally had very low turnout for voters, not just young voters, but across all demographics.” Statistics from the McLean Country board of Elections show that only 9% of registered voters in Normal turned out to the polls to vote in 2010.
“A primary is tremendously important because there are so few people that turn out to determine the outcome of those who will be standing in the general election later in the year,” Klugman said. “Sometimes the ratio is even as great as 3 to 1, meaning for every three people who turn out to vote in the November general election, only one will turn out to vote in the primary.”
Klugman says in sharp contrast to young voters showing apathy towards the primary election, the actual candidates see it as more valuable than ever. Klugman says it’s an opportunity for the major candidates to lure undecided voters to their side, “The largest group of voters in this country choose to not align with any political party, so what this means is that when you ask a student if they are party A or party B, they are more likely than ever before to say they are an independent. Politicians see this not necessarily as a bad thing; the general rule is that you must choose between Democrat or Republican before the general election because more often than not, one of them are going to win.”
To spur voter participation in the 2012 general election, Richland held a number of forums for political candidates, including a debate between candidates running for the 48th State Senate seat, Andy Manar and Mike McElroy.
“I wish we had some of the resources that some of the larger schools have so we could publicize the primary election more and show these students that the primary is just as important as the general election,” Klugman added.
Klugman did say he had hopes that this year’s primary will bring in more voters than the 2010 race because of the new law that allows 17 year olds to vote in the primary as long as they turn 18 before the November general election.
This March there will be a primary election for a US Senate Seat, State Treasurer’s Office, 13th Congressional Seat, and Governor’s Office.