There are important elections all over New Jersey on June 4. But very few people know about them. They are rarely mentioned in the newspaper or on TV. Richard Stockton College and most public schools spent months teaching their students how important it was to be involved in the elections when Barack Obama was running for president last November. But most students go through 12 years of public school and four years of college without ever learning what primary elections are, or how students can vote in them.
Most adults also have no idea what a primary election is or how the leaders and candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties, from president to township committee, are chosen.
The Republican and Democratic parties are nonprofit corporations very similar to private golf, tennis or swim clubs. The only difference is that their competitive sport is politics.
These "Big League" political clubs put together, train and support teams of candidates for the purpose of winning elections. Instead of championships and trophies, the winners of these games win political power and control of the government.
As with private sports and social clubs, political parties have bylaws, and members elect the officers who run them. At one time, political parties were exclusive and only admitted selected members. Back then, those members chose the leaders and candidates of both political parties at private meetings or conventions that were rigged by a handful of party bosses.
But just over 100 years ago, the state government in New Jersey and in most other states took those functions away from the parties, and set up the system of primary elections that we have now.
Now, any registered voter can become a voting member of either the Republican or Democratic party without joining any club or paying any dues. All that is necessary is to show up at your regular polling place on June 4 and sign the book as either a Republican or Democrat. The only need to fill out special paperwork in advance is if you want to switch your membership from one party to another.
That is why it is ridiculous when Republican "leaders," like Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis, call someone like popular conservative freeholder Joe McDevitt a sore loser for being a candidate in the primary election, rather than trusting the supposedly "fair and open" county convention.
In the primary election, each Republican voter in the county is eligible to vote. At the convention, only members of certain clubs get to vote, and some clubs get a lot more votes than others. In the primary election, each voter casts his or her own vote. At the convention, a handful of party leaders casts dozens of votes for people who don't even have to show up. In the primary election, there is a secret ballot. At the convention, anyone who votes the wrong way is subject to retaliation.
Besides being a lot fairer than county conventions, primary elections make it very easy for a few organized and dedicated people to take control of both parties from the privileged insiders who use politics and government for their personal gain at the expense of everyone else.
That is because only about 5 percent of voters take part in primary elections. That means your vote in June has roughly 20 times the voting power as your vote in November. And because most primary election voters are informed, candidates with a good message and a good organization can win elections without big campaign donations from those privileged insiders. They can instead reach most primary voters directly by phone, social media, talk radio, door to door - and columns such as this one.
Six months ago, I urged New Jersey conservatives to forget about running as independent, Constitution Party or Libertarian Party candidates. I became a Republican candidate for governor against Chris Christie to show by example how this could be done.
On June 4, conservative candidates in seven counties are also running against the established Christie Republicans. Here in South Jersey, Bob Campbell is running for state Senate in the 1st District, which includes most of Cumberland and Cape May counties, along with Estell Manor and Corbin City in Atlantic County. Marybeth Bennett is running for state Senate in the 2nd District, which includes most of the rest of Atlantic County, and Joe McDevitt is running for freeholder of Atlantic County.
Seth Grossman, a Somers Point lawyer, is a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Email: seth@grossman4NJ.com.