Washington Insider
Primary elections will chart the course

By Melissa Rohan


This may be a non-presidential election year, but it is still important, or arguably more important.

There is a chance that this year’s election could change the makeup of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Historically, the election following a new president brings a wave of freshman representatives, senators, and governors from the other political party. But there are several factors that will determine whether this is a tsunami or just the wake from a passing boat. If enough Republicans win elections, the majority leadership of the House or Senate could change.

Governors’ offices across the nation could change parties as well, as recently happened in Virginia and New Jersey. These elections are more important this year than in the past because of the census. The number of congressional seats could change based on census data. If there is a change, the governor is in charge of redistricting the state to reflect the new number of congressional seats. Redistricting can affect election outcomes for the next decade or longer.

Of course, all of this is dependent on primary elections. Strategy, money and political environment are going to make this year’s primary election season even more interesting than in the past.

Most states have primary elections. Primaries are the way Republican and Democratic political parties nominate candidates for the November general election.

In some areas dominated by a single political party, the primary can essentially decide the winner of the general election. So a primary cannot be considered a “warm-up” for the big election.

Each state handles primaries differently. It is important to find out how and when your home state conducts its primary by looking at your state’s official Web site. You can also find that information – and voter registration info – on

What kind of primary does your state conduct?

Closed. Voters may participate in a party’s primary only if they are registered members of that party. Independents cannot participate.

Semi-closed. Similar to closed primaries where a voter participates in only one party’s primary if affiliated; however, semi-closed systems allow unaffiliated voters to participate as well. Depending on the state, independents make their choice of party primary privately (inside the voting booth) or publicly (by registering with a party on Election Day).

Open. Registered voters may vote in any party primary regardless of their own party affiliation.

Semi-open. Registered voters do not have to publicly declare which political party’s primary they will vote in before entering the voting booth. When voters identify themselves to the election officials, they must request a party’s specific ballot. Only one ballot is cast by the voter.

Runoff. A primary in which the ballot is not restricted to one party and the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. A runoff differs from a primary in that a second round is needed only if no candidate attains a majority in the first round.

For your state, see

A few states have already held primaries, but most states’ registration deadlines are looming. Most OOIDA members are probably already planning on voting in the primaries. If this is your first time, make sure you know what kind of primary your state conducts (See chart below). The type of primary could help determine how you will vote or declare your party affiliation.

If you are unsure about whether you will vote this year, here are a couple of thoughts.

Trucking is the most regulated industry. Congress sets the agenda for regulatory agencies like Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It’s important to find Congressional candidates who understand trucking – or are at least willing to listen to the challenges you face – and support them with your vote.

And we should all be grateful that we are citizens of a country with a Constitution that gives us this privilege. It’s up to us to use it – or risk losing the rights that affect our life and livelihood. LL