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Corie Whalen
Corie Whalen

Albany Times Union: Voters See Advantages of Primaries

Corie Whalen

On August 4th, the New York based newspaper the Albany Times Union, published a great pieceby Alliance For Self-Governance Co-Chairman Eric O’Keefe, and Citizens for Self-Governance President Mark Meckler. O’Keefe and Meckler. In the article, O’Keefe and Meckler cite a recent Ballotpedia study entitled “Primary Challenge: Anti-Incumbency Voting Patterns in State Legislative Primaries,” and explain that state legislative incumbents in New York’s upcoming primary may be in for a bigger challenge than they normally face due to recent voter patterns.
As O’Keefe and Meckler observe:

More and more voters are seeing it is the primary where they have real leverage and where their votes really count. Not only are most districts one-party districts, but far fewer citizens vote in primaries. So each voter has much more clout in the election that actually decides the winner. And just as significantly, a small increase in voter turnout in the primary could provide the challenger’s margin of victory.


That voters are realizing they can leverage their power and hold incumbents accountable through primaries is a great sign – and one that has an impact on both the state and federal level. And this isn’t a phenomenon that’s necessarily relegated to one party or another. For example, in the past few months, Republican voters traded in Congresswoman Jean Schmidt in a Cincinnati, Ohio area district for veteran and doctor Brad Wenstrup. On the Democratic side, El Paso residents in Texas ousted Congressman Silvestre Reyes and voted for city councilman Beto O’Rourke. Both are safe districts for the parties in question, and the only way for voters to achieve turnaround was through a primary election. Recognizing this, they took decisive action, and made a difference.Ultimately, as O’Keefe and Meckler state:

76 incumbent state legislators have been defeated in primaries so far this year. That’s a 74 percent increase from the 2010 cycle. If this pattern holds up, about 150 incumbents will lose primaries this cycle. This has been a year of newsworthy upsets in primaries at the federal level as well.

Be sure to read the entire piece in the Albany Times Union, and spread the word about the importance of primaries. After all, the voters deserve to hear from their elected officials, and primary challenges force them to come back to their constituents and explain themselves; particularly in safe seat districts, as Meckler and O’Keefe point out. Empowering voters on all levels of government is crucial, and primary elections create accountability regardless of which seat is contested.