On Saturday the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) will meet to decide how Virginia Republicans will nominate our candidate for the 2016 presidential election. The choice is between a statewide primary and a convention of delegates. We have all heard the main points hundreds of times. They have been splattered all over our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds for months now but there a few points that have been neglected, including the effect a convention would have on millennial participation in the nominating process.
First, I would like to state the hard truth. Republicans have done a bad job at winning statewide office for nearly eight years now. Republicans have failed to elect a statewide candidate in five out of the last six statewide elections. Furthermore, of the twelve statewide positions up for grabs during that period (2006-2014), Republicans have succeeded in electing their candidate only 25 percent of the time, with all three coming in the same year. A large part of this was the unforeseen demographic shift as Northern Virginia and other areas became more populace and more Democratic. Thankfully, our party has been growing both in strength and number, especially among the youngest voters.
In 2012 Mitt Romney won 59 percent of voters age 18-20, and in the otherwise abysmal 2013 election voters 18-24 supported Ken Cuccinelli 45 percent – 39 percent over Terry McAuliffe. This is due in no small part to the work of College Republicans across our Commonwealth. We should all be proud of the fact that Virginia has one of the best College Republican Federations in the country. In fact, Virginia had the largest attendance out of any State (or Commonwealth) in the country at the 61st College Republican National Committee (CRNC) Biennial Convention earlier this month. This is just one of the many reasons I am proud to be a part of CRFV as a student at Christopher Newport University.
As a CR, I have to balance a busy schedule; between classes, College Republicans, Marching Band, student government, and a campaign job I have very little time to devote for traveling to a convention. A convention estimated to take place in mid-March would cause lots of issues for CRs who would be busy with mid-terms and Spring Break. Many students would most likely be unable to attend a convention, not due to lack of care and dedication to the Republican Party, but because of school. We should be able to vote absentee in a statewide primary, as should tens of thousands of other Virginia college students. Voting on primary day should take the average voter no more than 30 minutes, accounting for travel time (I am looking at you NoVA residents). Participating in a 21st century nomination process should not require spending large sums of money or taking a day off school. As a party, we can do better.
Making people a part of the process is a great way to grow the party. A primary will do that in addition to providing much of the data necessary for running an effective GOTV operation. Millennials are not the only group that would have trouble attending a convention. Older voters and members of the military would be effectively disenfranchised by the convention process. I am not claiming that a primary will equate to total victory in 2016, but it is the first in a series of steps our party must take in order to provide even a chance for a Republican victory two Novembers from now.
I urge the members of SCC to vote for a primary. Demonstrate to the Republican voters and donors across the country and across our Commonwealth that the RPV has got its act together and is ready to put up a serious fight in 2016.
Nick Welham, a College Republican leader at Christopher Newport University, has worked on many campaigns throughout Virginia. In his spare time he knocks on doors and tables for the Republican Party.