Over the years, several people have told me that the reason they didn’t vote was because they didn’t like the candidates from whom they had to choose in the General Election. I think that is a lousy excuse. Any voter who really cares about getting quality candidates on the ballot in November will not trust these important decisions to others. Voters who care will get involved in the nomination process.
People excuse themselves by saying that they don’t know how to get involved in the process. That dog don’t hunt… as we used to say back home. There is plenty of information available on party websites. Those websites have contact information. And if they don’t, call your local Registrar. They have the numbers of your local party chairs. Any voter who wants to get involved in the process can find someone to contact about how to do so.
The process of selecting nominees for the General Election can take several forms. One form is a state-run primary. Sixth Congressional District Republicans will select their nominee for Congress in a primary on June 21st. Anyone can vote in a state-run Republican primary – even Democrats. (That is one of several reasons I am not a fan of primaries.)
Proponents of primaries say they allow more people to vote because a lot of people don’t have time to attend a convention or mass meeting. Apparently, those people don’t have time to attend a primary either, because only about eight percent (on average) of registered voters turn out to vote on primary day. (This is an additional example of why those who don’t take part in the process should not complain about the results.)
Another nomination method is a “party canvass” also known as a “firehouse primary.” That is basically a party-run primary. These are generally held by local units because they can be a royal headache to conduct on a large scale.
District and state parties can hold conventions to which local units send delegates to select nominees for District and State offices. Fifth Congressional District Republicans will stage a convention on May 21st. However, the deadline for filing to be a delegate is long past. The process takes several months so voters need to get engaged in the process as early as January or February of the year in which the General Election will be held.
Another method of nominating candidates for office is a Mass Meeting. A lot of people do not fully understand the concept of a mass meeting.
Republicans in any given county or city in Virginia are normally represented by a committee of Republicans who take care of Republican business for that entity. Every two years a call goes out inviting every Republican in a given city or county to attend a meeting of Republicans (a mass meeting) to elect members of a committee whose task is to oversee Republican activities and legal responsibilities for the Republicans of that unit. They also elect a chairman for the local unit, and if there is a convention to which the unit is authorized to send delegates, they elect delegates.
That same process can be used to nominate candidates. For example, because of the deadlines for selecting delegates to the Fifth District Convention, the Lynchburg Republican Committee had to hold a mass meeting in March to elect delegates. However, state law does not allow political parties to select their nominees for public office prior to May 5th, so the Lynchburg Republican Committee has to hold a second mass meeting to select candidates for City Council. This meeting will be on May 14th.
Mass meetings for the purpose of nominating candidates can also get complicated. For example, Lynchburg voters will elect three city council members this year. Lynchburg Republicans plan to select three nominees from a field of seven candidates. They want their three nominees to each receive a majority vote so that a fringe candidate cannot win a nomination with a mere plurality. The Lynchburg Committee is also doing interviews and background checks so that there are no unpleasant surprises during the campaign.
Some people will say the nomination process is too complicated, but I write them off as complainers. The best way to understand the process is to be involved in it. Sitting and complaining doesn’t change the nation. Voter involvement does.
Steve “Doc” Troxel, Ph.D.