Staff Editorial: Primaries are missing link in voter participation

Over the past few years, the movement to increase voter turnout among young people has gained a remarkable amount of traction. Forty-seven percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the 2004 presidential election, an increase of 11 percentage points from 2000.

As the upcoming presidential election dominates the national political consciousness, college students continue to hear much on the importance of active participation in our democracy. Given the particular emphasis that is placed on young-voter participation in the presidential election, it can become easy to forget the presidential primaries through which the major parties' nominees are chosen.

The tendency among many voters, unfortunately, is to overlook participation in the primaries because no candidates attain a position. This is an unfortunate reality, as participation in a primary (if one is enrolled in a political party in New York) is an absolutely vital facet of the process.

Voting in primaries offers two advantages over simply voting in the presidential election. For one thing, New York State will almost certainly go to the Democratic candidate in the presidential election. In the presidential primary, however, it's uncertain who will win, meaning there's more opportunity for individual votes to influence the outcome. Simply put, no one can lay claim to being inconsequential in a primary.

Additionally, given the larger number of candidates that participate in primaries as opposed to the actual election, voters have a much greater opportunity to consider the candidates' respective views on various issues. To find a candidate whose views align with yours is far easier. This, in turn, can often facilitate more enthusiastic support for a candidate and the political process in general than a one-on-one presidential election usually can.

New York's primary is Tuesday, Feb. 5, and we urge all students enrolled in political parties to vote either locally or by absentee ballot if not registered locally. Our generation's increasing awareness of and participation in the political process is heartening, but participating only in the presidential election isn't truly fulfilling civic duty. If you're going to do it, do it right, and vote in the primary. It really does matter.