The 2016 election was in full gear in my freshman year of high school, so becoming a part of the conversation was unavoidable. It was an important presidential race coming out of 8 years of former president Barack Obama. Going into the race, there was a crowded amount of republican candidates hoping to capitalize on the majorities taken in the previous midterm election. The democratic race was not nearly as crowded, as Hillary Clinton had been chosen as Obama’s successor.
Through this introduction to the world of politics, I became more and more involved. This past summer, I worked on several campaigns for everything from South Carolina governor to State House District 33. This past summer I certainly learned that local race are very important, and could very possibly be much more important than the presidential race for vote in every 4 years. I cannot stress enough how absolutely important voting in even these seemingly small races is.
First off, when it comes to elections you must understand the main 3 types of elections: primaries/caucuses, runoffs, and the general.
In South Carolina we hold a primary. In a primary you do vote by whichever party you align the closest to. For me, I am a conservative libertarian so I typically will vote in the republican primary. The party will have multiple people running for their ‘nomination.’ Using the SC Governor race, the republican primary consisted of 5 candidates: Henry McMaster (the incumbent), Kevin Bryant (the current lieutenant governor), John Warren (businessman), Yancey McGill (former lieutenant governor and democratic state senator), and Catherine Templeton (former Director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control and former Director of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation).
Out of these candidates, 2 of them had to face each other in a runoff. When a candidate cannot secure at least 5o% of the vote, they must face the second placer in a runoff election. This does not always occur. The runoff will take place about 2 or so weeks after the initial primary and will also be a vote by party. Your voter registration from the primaries will still be valid for the runoff. In this particular runoff, Henry McMaster had to face John Warren, a surprise contender, in the runoff race.
When it comes to the general election, you have to re-register. Registering to vote here in South Carolina is very easy online. This where the nominees chosen in primaries or runoff elections will face the opposing parties. This vote is not done by party. Just because you voted in the republican primaries does not mean that you have to vote for the republicans chosen as the party’s nominees. For example, I did not vote for all of the republican’s nominees. For the governor race, I actually wrote in Kevin Bryant rather than just voting for McMaster. I actually voted for Guy Furay, the American Party’s nominee, in the 4th Congressional District race.
There is absolutely no shame in not doing a straight republican or a straight democratic ticket. I would even venture to insist that you try not to do a straight ticket. I would advise you research all of your options and decide where you stand, rather than just regurgitating wherever your party stands.
Going out of the 2018 midterms, I would like to offer some resources for any future election you may vote in. These websites will offer a variety of ways to look at candidates and more.
As I keep track of all of the various races, I love Decision Desk HQ. This site creates forecasts that can help you gauge how a race may go. I do not let forecasts affect my vote much, but it is interesting to look at. On election night, Decision Desk provides interactive models showing the results in real time and calling them when the numbers are in.
When it comes to researching candidates, Ballotpedia is a really helpful resource. It is a wiki-style site that is updated by users daily. This site can be used to look into a candidate’s voting records, previously held offices, results from previous elections, and much more. When looking at the SC Governor race I used Ballotpedia to compare the 5 republican candidates before putting my support towards Kevin Bryant.
FollowTheMoney allows you to see where a campaign’s donations come from. This can affect your vote if an organization you disagree with is a large donor to a particular candidate’s campaign.
BillTrack50 is very helpful for looking into incumbents or candidates who have served in different offices. This website allows you to see legislation that representatives have either introduced or endorsed. You can read and see the outcome of each piece of legislation. Similar to Ballotpedia, you also have the ability to see voting records.
I hope that you can use these resources to make informed decisions in any election you participate in. Voting is an important right and duty, but an uninformed vote can certainly do more hurt. Blindly voting for party fosters an environment where weak and mediocre candidates thrive. Rather than standing on firm principles, all they have to do is pander to whatever the party currently wants.
However you vote, stay informed!