Sept. 18, 2017 — Virginia is the most unique political state in the country when it comes to nominating political candidates. Party leaders and the incumbents themselves have great authority not only to schedule their nomination date, but also over what process will be used to determine a nominee.
At the congressional level, each district can independently decide upon its own nomination system irrespective of how the state and other CDs may operate. Therefore, some of the 11 districts may hold a direct primary, others a convention, and still others a “firehouse primary,” which is a hybrid between a convention and a direct primary.
In this latter option, voters visit a polling place, often times in a firehouse, but the number of sanctioned voting locations are few and far between thus forcing people to drive miles in order to participate. The entire system is designed for party leaders and incumbents to exact strict control, and their decisions more often than not keep rank and file voters away from directly choosing the eventual nominee.
Northern Virginia Democratic leaders are now contemplating what to do in the state’s 10th Congressional District where no fewer than nine candidates have already announced in hope of opposing second-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) in the 2018 general election. The 10th District Democratic Committee met over the weekend for purposes of discussing their nomination options, hence the serious discussion of limiting voter participation to a district convention.
A congressional nomination will be decided tomorrow in the Washington, DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. Expectations suggest a limited number of Republican voters will participate in what is termed a “firehouse” primary.
The characteristics of such a voting event are unique. First, only 11 polling places will be open throughout the entire district: just one apiece in Clarke, Frederick, and Prince William Counties, and in the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Winchester. Fairfax County will feature two polling locations, and Loudoun County, a locality housing more than 350,000 residents, will have only three. Instead of voting in one’s own neighborhood as is normally the case, individuals will have to travel, in some instances more than 20 miles, and stand in what could be a long line because there are so few polling places. Thus, participating in this election will take a much greater commitment from every voter than in normal primaries. Continue reading >