10 Things About Primaries
1. Primary elections serve as a sort of “playoff game” running up to the “championship” of a general election. The purpose of a primary election is for political parties to select their candidates who will then run in the general election, for those elected offices that are “partisan” or elected “by party,” such as Boone County Commissioners. Most state and local elected offices are elected this way.
2. There are some elected offices that are “nonpartisan,” such as Columbia City Council seats. For these offices, there is no primary election.
3. Ballot questions, or issues, may be added to the ballot in any election, including a primary election. These questions will appear on all ballots.
4. The Presidential Primary occurs on a different date from the primary elections for other offices.
5. Sometimes, you may hear people say, “For this office, the primary election IS the general election.” This means that there may be multiple candidates for an office within one party, but nobody running in other parties for the same office. Therefore, whoever wins that primary election will be the only person running in the general election, and will therefore win it.
6. If you have registered in this county in time for the registration deadline, including if you registered and voted in the past, you are eligible to vote in a primary election. You do not need to register as a member of any party when you register to vote in Missouri. You just register, as a voter. Not all states work this way, but Missouri does.
7. When you go to your polling place to vote in a primary election, you will be asked to select which party’s ballot you wish to vote. You must choose a party ballot if you want to vote for any candidates at all! If you choose an independent ballot, the ONLY votes you will be able to cast will be for the ballot questions that appear on all ballots.
8. By choosing a party’s ballot during a primary election, you commit to nothing in terms of actual party membership. Most voters will choose the primary ballot of the party with which they identify most strongly, but some voters may feel more strongly about voting for a particular candidate than they feel about parties, and so they will choose the ballot on which their candidate of choice appears.
9. If you are someone who says, “I don’t identify with a party – I just vote for the person,” but you still want to have a voice in who ultimately gets selected to run, you may still vote in a primary election. Just be sure you know the party ballot on which your candidate of choice will appear, so you can choose that ballot when you go to your polling place. If you favor candidates for different offices who are running in different parties, you will have to choose which one to support with your primary vote. You may want to choose the party ballot with the MOST candidates you like, or the one with the CLOSEST race that you care about, or the one with the candidate you feel MOST STRONGLY about.
10. To find out which candidates and which ballot questions will appear on the ballot (and also to make sure you are registered to vote), visit the Boone County Clerk website. Look for the link to “View Sample Ballot and Polling Location.” You will enter your name, and you will see a blue chart showing your name, some other information and the word “Select” on the right side of the chart. Click on either your name or the word “Select” to view all the party ballots you will have to choose from on Election Day. Clicking on the primary ballot links does NOT commit you to anything – you are just viewing information.