Why primary elections matter

Why should you care about the primary? 

Voting ballot box with man checking off box on a ballot

Most people have a clear understanding of why they should vote. Beyond the matter of civic duty, real-life issues are decided by the folks on that ballot sheet. But how do they end up there?  

Before a general election, parties host what’s called a primary. In this election, candidates face members of their own party to determine who will represent the party in the general election. That’s why you don’t see multiple members of the same party running in a general election.  

Primary elections allow voters to distinguish between candidates in their own party—a distinction that can make all the difference. A look at the last few presidential primaries will show how stark the ideological differences can be between members of the same party.  

And primary elections matter now more than ever. Why?  

Highly Partisan Districts 

Every 10 years, the Texas State Government redraws the maps that determine who represents who. They place people in districts—Senate Districts, House Districts, etc. This is essential to the democratic process, but a funny thing called gerrymandering complicates the situation.  

Gerrymandering happens when the people drawing the map group together specific types of voters, solidifying a district for a single party. This means Republican districts get redder, Democrat districts get bluer, and purple districts disappear. 

Texas just completed this process. If you live in a blue district, the candidate representing the Democrat party is almost certainly going to win. The same for red districts and Republicans. That means that the most consequential election is the one that decides which candidate represents your party, the primary election.  

Low Voter Turnout 

Not enough people vote. The last election for Houston's mayor was decided by 202,000 voters. That’s fewer than 20% percent of registered voters! And now that we know how partisan districts work, we know that the election was actually decided in the primary— where even fewer people vote! 

What's more, because those folks who are passionate enough to vote in primaries tend to also have very strong beliefs, low voter turnout in primaries can lead to a more extreme candidate pool. 

If we want a say in our government, we have to start voting in every election. 

Get out there and make your voice heard! Vote in the primary. 

Key information you need: 

Important Dates 

  • January 31 - Last day to register to vote 

  • February 15-25 - Early Voting 

  • March 1 - Election Day for the March 2022 Primary 

Not sure if you’re registered to vote? Need help registering?

Who’s running? How and where do I vote?


About the author
Sarah Landsman

Sarah Landsman has served three legislative sessions at the Texas Capitol. Before coming to YES Prep, she worked for the Louisiana state chapter of Children’s Advocacy Centers. There she directed the organization’s statewide training initiatives and legislative work resulting in a first-time state appropriation for the organization. Now she is the Managing Director of Advocacy at YES Prep Public Schools, where she leads the organization's governmental relations and community engagement work.

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