Fred Harris

Fred Harris

I almost always vote. I may have missed a school district vote in the early days, but I recall casting a ballot FIVE times in 1976: twice on the school budget, for the Presidential primary, for the non-Presidential primaries, and in the general election.

Voting in the primaries is something a LOT of people don’t do, and I find it mystifying. There ARE rules that allow people affiliated in the two major parties to vote, to the exclusion of those not enrolled, which is the way it works in New York State. That is why I’m registered in a political party. OK, in the Democratic party; I KNOW this is a shock to some of you.

The Presidential primary in New York is in April 2016, and I’m likely to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, my former US Senator. Besides the fact that I think his positions are more aligned with mine, I have a feeling he’ll do better against the Republican candidate, whoever he is, than Hillary would. I wouldn’t count Bernie out.

On Facebook, a guy named Joe Mahoney posted this on February 10: “It should be pretty clear by now that these professional political analysts you see on TV — the people who were convinced a year ago it would be Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush in 2016, no question — have no more wisdom or insight than your typical cab driver or supermarket checkout clerk…”

For reasons of my own memory, I’ve decided to try to record who I voted for in each Presidential primary. This is not as easy as you might think, and not only because of my failing brain cells.
Chisholm
June 20, 1972. My clear preference was Shirley Chisholm, the first black Congresswoman, who served part of Brooklyn. The problem was something Arthur mentioned about the 2016 Illinois primary: “Voters vote for committed delegates running in their Congressional District…. However, not all candidates, especially minor candidates, are able to mount a full slate of delegate candidates in all Congressional Districts.”

I’m fairly sure Ms. Chisholm was not on the ballot in my upstate Congressional district. In fact, I’m not even sure there WAS a primary in my Congressional district; the state’s selection was the very last, so George McGovern may have locked up the nomination by then, losing badly to the incumbent Richard Nixon in November.

April 1976. My clear preference was Fred Harris, the rumpled iconoclast Senator from Oklahoma. But was he on the ballot in New York? If not, I might have voted for Congressman Mo Udall (AZ) or Senator Frank Church (ID) instead, but surely not Jimmy Carter. There was some arcane thing that the Carter forces did in New York to keep someone off the ballot, and it ticked me off.

March 25, 1980. Both Senator Edward Kennedy (MA) and Governor Jerry Brown (CA) challenged the incumbent President Carter. Despite the horrible incident in Chappaquiddick, I supported Ted, who actually won New York. At the same time, I was afraid for him. Every President elected, or re-elected, in a year ending in zero had died in office. Moreover, all of Teddy’s brothers had died violently, Joe in World War II, and JFK and RFK via assassins’ bullets. Of course, Jimmy Carter was renominated, but lost the general election. President Ronald Reagan was shot in March 1981, but survived.

April 3, 1984. I actually liked Walter Mondale (MN), Jimmy Carter’s Vice-President, and the eventual nominee who lost to Reagan. But I thought he was too much tied to that failed administration. So I supported Senator Gary Hart (CO). I DIDN’T support the Rev. Jesse Jackson because of an ethnic slur he had made three months earlier, then denied saying for a time.

Paul Simon, not the singer

Paul Simon, not the singer


1988. If he were on the ballot, in New York, I would have supported Paul Simon, not the singer but the Senator from Illinois. Governor Michael Dukakis (MA) won the nomination, but lost the general election to George H.W. Bush.

April 7, 1992. Former Senator Paul Tsongas (MA) was my guy, but he quit the race three weeks before the primary. Did I vote for him or did I switch to Jerry Brown? I DIDN’T vote for Bill Clinton in the primary, but did when he won the general election.

1996. If perennial candidate Lyndon LaRouche even forced a primary in New York against the incumbent Bill Clinton, I’d be mighty surprised.

March 7, 2000. I voted for former US Senator (and former New York Knicks basketball player) Bill Bradley (NJ) over Vice-President Al Gore (TN). After he lost New York by nearly 2-1, and several other states on that day (my birthday), Bradley withdrew two days later. Of course, I voted for Gore v. George W. Bush, and of course Gore wonlost.

Dennis Kucinich

Dennis Kucinich


March 2, 2004. In a primary, sometimes one votes one’s heart. I voted for former Cleveland mayor and then-current congressman Dennis Kucinich (OH), knowing that it was a quixotic campaign. If I were to have voted for someone who I thought might have had a chance to WIN, I might have picked Senator John Edwards (NC), who became John Kerry’s running mate when they lost to Bush/Cheney.

February 5, 2008. On Super Tuesday, the day “on which the greatest number of states hold primary elections”, I voted for Barack Obama against my former US Senator Hillary Clinton, though I had voted for her when she ran for the Senate in 2000. Clinton won New York, but, of course, eventually lost the nomination.

Obviously, Obama was the first Democrat who I ever voted for who actually won the nomination, and, as we know, he became the 44th President when he beat Senator John McCain (AZ). 2008 was only the second time the candidate I supported in the general election won, the first being 1992 with Bill Clinton.

2012. Obama was unopposed in New York State, though he faced token opposition elsewhere. He was reelected President, beating former Governor Mitt Romney (MA).

Well, THAT was more difficult than I thought it would be.

7 Responses to “Voting in the primaries”

  • That is a pretty impressive feat of memory if you ask me. I have voted in every election, apart from a local election or two, but I would struggle to tell you who I voted for or why.

    The primaries are an interesting approach to a national election. It’s as if two-thirds of the population already know which party they will vote for and the argument is about who will lead it. It’s a little bit the other way round in the UK as we already know who the leaders are and which party you choose to vote for is down to their personality to a great extent.

  • fillyjonk says:

    I suspect a lot of people skip primary voting because by the time it gets to certain states, the race for whichever party is all-but-decided. (And in years with an incumbent president, it IS decided for one party). In my state, at least, if you declare party membership, you can’t vote in the other party’s primary, and if you declare Independent you can’t vote in any primary. (You could switch parties, I suppose, in a year when you’re particularly interested in the outcome of a primary, but that’s a pain to do and you’d have to plan in advance so you’d be “on the books” as that party long enough before the primary)

  • Roger says:

    fillyjonk- true in New York State. I’m a registered Democrat because I can vote in the Democratic primary. For me to have voted in the Republican primary this year, I would have had to have changed my affiliation months ago. And people not affiliated in either party can vote in NEITHER primary. It is very much a CLOSED primary state.

  • ADD says:

    I supported Jesse Jackson in 1988. Went to a rally for him in downtown Albany. Ran into Pete Seegar on the street afterward. That was quite a day.

  • CGHill says:

    Primaries are closed in Oklahoma, but not entirely so. This year, the Democrats opened the doors to independents; the Republicans did not. Crossover voting, however, is still prohibited.

  • lisa says:

    Knowing what my foremothers sacrificed so I could vote, I rarely miss the opportunity.

  • i always vote at every opportunity. Why the hell not?

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