One more night and the primary election will be here. Months of campaigning will end and voters finally will have their say. Yet tens of thousands of Marylanders are likely to stay away from the 1,550 polling places tomorrow, choosing not to exercise their right to direct governance. Instead of finding common solutions, they will allow themselves to become part of unresolved problems.
Primary elections are an essential part of America's two-party system. Not only do voters designate their respective party's candidates for various offices but they also elect members of the party central committees. Those committees have important duties, including filling vacancies that may occur between the elections.
Is there a better way than a popular vote?
Few alternatives exist in a democracy. One suggestion has surfaced -- electing officials by means of detailed polling. That proposal fails on several counts. Public opinion polling -- with its scientific-sounding "three or four percent margin of error" -- does not carry with it the kind of a mandate associated with an actual election. Nor is that claim of scientific accuracy guaranteed. Yet it is the increasingly common use (and overuse) of polling that has helped seriously dampened voter participation in recent years. Why bother to vote when the polls indicate the likely outcome in advance?