While it may be difficult to believe, we have just started the 2016 primary process; the Republican Party has held an election or caucus in 4 states and the Democrats in 3. On March 1st, the nomination process will kick into a higher gear with “Super Tuesday” when 11 states will host a primary election event. “Super Tuesday” is a Tuesday in February or March when the highest number of states host their primary events. Primaries continue until June 7th, when California and New Jersey elections round off the cycle. Click here for a complete calendar of election events.
Primary season can be a very confusing time. The United States Constitution only sets standards for general elections, therefore, the standards for primary elections are left to the states, the political party in each state, as well as local jurisdictions. This can leave a rather mixed bag of events. For example, the Republican Party in South Carolina held their primary election on February 20th, whereas the Democrats held it on February 27th. In
North Dakota, the Republicans will have a closed caucus but the Democrats will select their nominee through an open primary. Check out The Imperfect Primary by Barbara Norrander from the Prairie State College Library for a more thorough discussion on the U.S. political, nomination system.
Some important things to know about the Illinois primary:
- March 15th, the date of the state-wide primary elections.
- It as a “hybrid primary.” This means that when you go to your polling place you may select the primary ballot for any party. In a “closed primary,” you may only vote in a party’s primary if you are a registered member of that party.
- Illinois has an easy-to-use portal to help you determine your polling place.
- Voting is open 6am-7pm.
- Voter registration ended on February 16th; however, you can still register to vote! Called “Grace Period Registration,” any Illinois resident may register in-person at an election authority in their jurisdiction. This also includes updating your address or legal name. Make sure you have the right forms of identification when you register.
- You can vote now! Tuesday the 15th could be a very busy day for you, as well as other voters. You also may be too excited to wait and want to vote as soon as possible. Illinois allows for early voting for any qualified voter. If this is something that interest you, there is a map of all early voting locations in suburban Cook County.
- If you are not an Illinois resident, you should vote in your home state!
As mentioned above, the Republican and Democratic parties are holding their primary elections on March 15th. The field for presidential candidates could change, which often happens after Super Tuesday. However, this does not change your duty as a voter. You have the opportunity to cast your vote for your party’s nomination in several races. This includes national positions, such as United States Senator, as well as for very important local positions, like Circuit Judges.
Finding balanced and unbiased information about the candidates can be difficult. The Illinois State Board of Elections provides a complete list of all the candidates running for a position in this primary cycle. You can determine your voting districts by using either their desktop or mobile application. A recommended third-party site is BallotReady. Its expressed mission is to empower the voter by providing easy access to information about the election, the candidates, and any referendum. BallotReady allows voters to compare and contrast candidates in each position and examine each person based their stances to specific key issues.