Early primary discourages voting, democracy

For the first time in my life, I’m discouraged from voting.

While traveling across the country when I was a child, my parents always made an effort to vote absentee. On the first Tuesday of November, every four years, there was no telling if we would be near our district or states away from it.

On Nov. 2, 2004, I accompanied my mother as she cast her vote for the presidential election here in Florida. But with debates boiling around the early primary of Florida, I’m told that my vote will not count, nor will the votes of other first-time voters like myself.

The current official primary date is Jan. 29, exactly a week before Feb. 5, the date decided by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). MSNBC reported that “the Republican-controlled legislature in the battleground state of Florida went even further this year, passing a bill setting Jan. 29 as the official date for the state’s primary.” The DNC has voted to allow Florida 30 days – 25 from today – to change its plan.

Only Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina are allowed to hold a nominating caucus or a primary election before the official DNC date, to comply with “traditional roles that Iowa and New Hampshire play in selecting the nominee, while adding Nevada and South Carolina to the early group to give more racial and geographic diversity to the selection process,” according to USA Today.

Democratic Party leaders also said: “Florida must comply with the National Democratic Party’s rules for selecting presidential election delegates or lose any role in picking a Democratic nominee for the White House.”

If Florida does not comply with the Feb. 5 date set by the DNC, none of the 210 delegates sent to the Democratic National Convention will be allowed to represent Florida’s voters in Denver next year. Florida will completely lose its role in the primary elections. Therefore, every single Florida vote in the Democrat primary election will mean nothing.

However, Florida is not the only state in this dilemma, and the DNC isn’t the only group complaining. The New York Times reported that the Republican National Committee (RNC) will punish Florida’s delegates as well. A party official said the RNC “plans to penalize at least five states holding early primaries, including New Hampshire and Florida, by refusing to seat at least half of their delegates at the national convention in 2008.”

The five states in trouble are Florida, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Michigan and South Carolina. However, New Hampshire and South Carolina are allowed by the DNC to hold their primaries early.

Like many of my peers, this will be the first election in which I am eligible to vote. I will vote, and I encourage everyone else to do so, but I specifically registered under a party name so that I could vote in the primary. I have my problems with both parties, but I forced myself to choose one because I wanted a greater opportunity to select a presidential candidate. Unfortunately, however, Florida’s early primary – and the fact that fewer delegates will attend party conventions because of it – cancels out my effort.

There is little reason for me to vote if my vote in the primary doesn’t count toward who will be running in the general election. Is it for the sheer thrill of voting and the suspense of wondering if the electronic machine will work this time?

Ah, I know why I should vote! There’s fun in driving completely out of my way to accomplish something that, after waiting in line for an event that takes all of five or ten minutes, will literally mean nothing come election day. I just love to waste my time.

I haven’t decided at this point whether I will vote in the primary. I’ve always been told that every vote matters. Not this time. My vote won’t count when there’s no one to represent it.

Amy Mariani is a

sophomore majoring in mass