Photo contributed by URI Democrats.
When I was in fifth grade, there was an incredible amount of fanfare the week after Halloween regarding the 2008 election. There were red, white and blue streamers everywhere and pictures of the candidates’ faces lined the hallways of my school.
While all the hoopla and the crepe paper made me excited to get to witness a national election, there was something missing from what I was taught about the election cycle: the importance of primary elections.
As a 10-year-old, I had missed them entirely. As a 20-year-old, I won’t make the same mistakes. That’s why I’m urging you to vote in the primary elections on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
Through my experience working on a competitive primary campaign, I’ve realized how important a primary is to our democratic process. The primary presents a unique opportunity to all of us as voters: we have the power to determine which candidate represents us best.
We know what our basic beliefs are. If a general election is a black and white choice, a primary allows us to choose our preference in the various shades of grey. The same frustrated question comes with every general election: I don’t like either candidate, so why am I forced to choose? The primary is our opportunity to field a candidate we are satisfied with by telling our party of choice which values and platforms are important to us.
A candidate who doesn’t advance past the primary can still help shape future policy. If a candidate garners a significant amount of electoral support in the primary, the party will see that the people are uniting around the candidate’s platform. The party will also find it in its best interest to integrate those issues into its own platform.
Even in the past few election cycles, parties have began to shift their platforms due to the energy behind primary candidates. Primaries encourage politicians within each party to reach higher and be better for their constituents. However, they can only do this if they know what their constituents support.
The Rhode Island primary election is Wednesday, Sept. 12 this year, and your vote is more important than ever. As of 2016, Millenials and Gen X-ers outnumber Baby Boomers; we are the future, and it is our job to make these choices because our future depends on it.
Offices at every level of the state government are facing primaries on both sides of the aisle, from governor all the way down to school committee seats. It’s important to vote for all of them because they each play a unique role in both the American experiment of democracy and in a functioning state government.
Every day since the 2016 election, and even before that, political pundits and talk show hosts have tried to tell us that young people don’t vote because they don’t care. Older generations have tried to paint us as aloof and unaware of what we really want or need.
However, I am a young person and I’ve talked to my peers. I’ve done the research and I know these claims are not true. I know that you care. I understand that you know these elections are about our future. University of Rhode Island students, go out and vote on Sept. 12. Decisions are made by those who show up.
Rhode Island voters can check their registration and polling place at vote.ri.gov.
Allison Lantagne is a junior at URI and an executive board member of the URI Democrats.