Prepare for the Election: Primary, Caucus, Open and Closed

vote_pic01There has been much in the news lately about the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary. These two states kick off the race for delegates to the Republican and Democratic conventions, but they have quite different means of selecting their delegates to the national conventions. Why the difference? Different states choose the means to nominate their delegates: some choose to hold a primary, where a simple vote through the whole state is taken to nominate delegates, others choose to hold a caucus, where delegates are selected by a system of local gatherings. Though the caucus was once the means by which most states selected their delegates, few states use it anymore. Instead, most states, Florida included, use the primary system. Some states hold open primaries where anyone can vote, including members of the opposite party. Others, such as Florida, hold closed primaries where one can only vote if a member of the party for a certain amount of time.


Why should Floridians care?

The “primary” reason Floridians should care about the primaries is that this is one time before the general election we have a voice. Some people may say, “What’s the use of getting out to vote in the primary?” The final vote is in the November national elections, granted, but if one waits until then, one will not have the variety of choices there is now. There is even the possibility that Rand Paul, who has suspended his campaign as John McCain once did, could re-enter the race. McCain suspended his campaign in 2008, but then went on to obtain the nomination. The other difficulty with waiting until the national election weeds out contenders is what one regards as a ‘weed,’ the establishment in either party may regard as a prized plant. Many people in the last two elections, especially Christians, were dissatisfied with their choices. This type of problem could potentially have been avoided if voters allowed their consciences to guide them in the primaries.

The law in Florida does permit independents to vote in the primary of either major party as well, but they need to register in the party of their choice. That deadline for the presidential primaries passed on February 16th, but the state primary is coming up August 30th, and the deadline for state primary voting is August 1st. The power of the president is great (some would argue too great) but there is still power maintained by the local and state governments, and it is often easier to influence for good than the national presidential elections are. It is not too late for even independents to have a positive effect on the leadership in Florida.


An informed conscience: the best ‘voter’s guide’

Being an informed voter is an excellent way for a citizen to influence government for the good of all. Checking the candidates’ stands on issues, from the more controversial issues of abortion and ‘gay rights’ to the candidate’s view of eminent domain and medicinal marijuana, is one way to become more informed. There are voter’s guides offered by a variety of groups, some on-line, others by mail. Christianity Today had an article in 2012 that explained well the differences in the voter guides, and the difficulties with them. This article can be found at Though written the last election cycle, the article is worth the read, and is as pertinent to this primary season as it was when written.


Christianity Today writer Tobin Grant went into detail to explain and categorize the different guides, but found many of them had one thing in common. Many of the voter’s guides tend to lean toward a particular party and deny the similarities between the nominee of the party favored and the nominee of party opposed. Most voter guides do not include the records of votes on the issues, either, even if the candidate had a Senate or House seat. Sojourners’ voter’s guide does not choose political parties and focuses on issues, but does not provide a record of the candidate’s vote. Researching a candidate’s voting records and positions can be time consuming, but Project Vote Smart, which is recommended by Tobin Grant, has made that task far easier than it once was. Project Vote Smart even has a ‘vote easy’ button to assist one in finding one’s ‘political soul-mate.’ It also permits the more detail orientated person to answer a variety of questions to pin-point who stands the most closely with him on all issues mentioned as a whole.

Whether one agrees with the position of Ron Sider on the issues or not, he at least provides some biblical reasoning as to why he favors presenting principles, and a good piece of Biblical advice:

“So who(m) does God want us to vote for? I honestly do not know,” Sider says. “I urge you to do what I plan for myself. Follow the debates. Keep learning about each candidate and his polices as they are stated, attacked, defended and developed. Talk to others. Pray fervently that God will guide in this election. And then vote for the person you think will be at least a little better in moving our nation and the world a bit closer to the shalom God wills.”


Penni Bulten is a homeschooling mom who is fascinated with the Founding Fathers and their faith. She can be reached at [email protected].

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