Primary elections are common in the United States, but are generally rare in the rest of the world, according to en.wikipedia.org.
Several types of primary elections exist throughout the country.
Georgia citizens engage in an open primary the farthest removed from its appropriately named polarity the jungle or blanket primary.
In Georgia, youve got to designate if you want a Democratic or Republican ballot, Ann Cain, Catoosa elections officer said.
The purpose of the primary is to narrow the field of candidates down.
A jungle primary, which is only used now in the state of Louisiana, but different versions were historically used in other states such as California, Alaska and Washington, allows all candidates to run in the same initial election on the same ballot.
The top two candidates in Louisiana go on to compete in the general elections, regardless of party. If a candidate receives an overwhelming majority in the jungle primary, there is no need for a subsequent election, according to Wikepedia.
Other types of primaries include open, semi-open and closed.
In closed primaries, voters may only vote in a primary if they are registered to the party whose ballot they choose.
Semi-open primaries require registered members of a party to vote along party lines, but unregistered voters can choose their party ballot the day of primary elections, according to Wikipedia.
We do not pre-register as a party, Cain said. When somebody registers here, I dont care what party they are. Catoosa County has used the open primary format for as long as Cain can remember.
She said she believes some Catoosans might prefer a blanket or jungle voting system because many citizens are reluctant to let voting officials know which party they choose to vote with in the primaries.
You have these starch politicians that dont care if you know, but I think the average citizen doesnt want people to know if they vote normally on a Democratic ballot or normally on a Republican ballot, Cain said.
I think a lot of it is that people just dont understand that the primary is truly not an election. Nobody has actually won an office by the primary, she said.
While open primaries appear fair, the concept, as with all other types of primaries, has met challenges.
In 2002, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was defeated in the primaries by her democratic challenger Denise Majette due to tactical voting, according to a November 1, 2002 article in From the Wilderness (www.fromthewilderness.org).
The lawsuit contended McKinneys defeat was due primarily to crossover Republican voters who voted on a Democratic ballot in the primaries to ensure she did not appear on the November ballot.
Tactical voting is defined as when a voter misrepresents his or her sincere preferences in order to gain a favorable outcome, according to Wikepedia.
After a series of appeals, courts ultimately dismissed the case. McKinney was re-elected to Congress in 2004.
It can be argued this makes the open style primary unfair, but it can also be argued that the primary election is similar to a strategic game of chess.
According to Cain, Catoosa is not immune to tactical voting.
A lot of people switch parties on a primary and a lot of it is because they think, well, maybe we can beat out the strongest candidate, Cain said. Both parties do it; its not just one party.
So, all is fair in love and war and the upcoming primary election.
Although Cain said tactical voting is fairly commonplace, she predicts the majority of voters will stick to their party of choice in this years primary.
Almost every race has got competition within their party lines, Cain said. It think this time around (tactical voting) may not be quite so prominent as in previous years because they do have so many options on each ballot.
Last time we had a primary, there wasnt that much opposition. A lot of people tend to go with where theyre going to have the most vote, she said.
In this years statewide elections, several Democratic and Republican candidates are competing for offices such as governor, secretary of state and lieutenant governor.
Locally, while Democratic candidates fly solo, several Republicans are pitted against each other in the Districts 2 and 4 races for county commissioner and in the District 3 race for state representative.
Not only will more names on both sides of the ballot likely bring voters to the polls, but Cain believes the county-specific questions appearing on the Republican ballot will have more voters turning out to voice their opinion, especially after all the media attention drawn by a lawsuit seeking to remove the questions.
Up until Thursday (June) 15, Id had three people ask me for those questions, Cain said. Two of them were politicians and one of them was high up in a political party. Since then, Ive made 25-30 copies of these questions. It stirred up curiosity if it didnt do anything else.
Regardless of the outcome of the primaries, Cain, and certainly others, are excited about the pending competition on July 18.
Cain said she thinks its awesome so many candidates are vying for different offices.
I love the democratic process, she said.
In order for a candidate to win a slot on the general elections ballot, they must walk away from the primaries with at least 50 percent plus one vote, according to elections clerk Donna Bomar.
Close Republican and Democratic races could face run-off elections on August 8 if races prove too close July 18.
The county commissioner race in District 4 is a good local example because one of the three Republican candidates must secure over half of the votes to guarantee their slot in November.
Whether citizens are interested in questions appearing on the Republican ballot, have certain favorites for statewide or local office or are just curious about the primary process in general, the July 18 elections may see more voters at the polls.
Either way, it will be interesting to see who moves on and who is left behind in the states primary voting process.
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