The arrival of 2016 brought the same anticipation and excitement as New Year’s Eve does every year (I was asleep by 10) even though it’s the year I’ve been talking about since 2012, a presidential election year. For political junkies, this year could be particularly exciting one with the possibility of an upset on the Democratic side and the chance for a brokered convention on the Republican side. As it stands today, the number of candidates that seem to have a shot at the Oval means that it’s too early to discount almost anyone (except Martin O’Malley — he had one voter show up for a campaign event in Iowa and the guy left undecided — it’s time to pack it in Governor O’Malley.) The epicenter of activity is just a few hours away in New Hampshire where the first-in-the-nation primaries will take place on February 9st.
We’ve already had our first political stunner of 2016 here in Rhode Island last week when Republican John Pagliarini won a State Senate seat that seemed headed for Democratic control. Even though there are no statewide elections this year, it could be an interesting year to be an active voter. Although Rhode Island typically plays no role in presidential politics with our four electoral votes and reliably Democratic voters, 2016 could be the year that Little Rhody figures big — at least on the Republican side. Rhode Island’s presidential preference primary falls on April 26th, about mid-way through the process, and at a time when still-viable candidates will be looking to scoop up whatever delegates they can. This is particularly significant because there are fewer “winner take all” states, so closely contested primaries could award delegates to two, three or more candidates, making it likely that a candidate cannot clinch the nomination before May. A brokered convention (one where no candidate has a majority before voting begins) would be a nail-biter and must-see-TV since we haven’t seen a brokered convention in modern times
While there will be several opportunities to cast a ballot in 2016 with local primaries on September 13th and the general election on November 8th, plan to cast your first ballot of 2016 on April 26th. For Rhode Islanders, the presidential primary may be the only chance to have a sense that your vote for president counts, so make a plan to show up. Regardless of your politics, your vote might actually matter, so don’t sleep through the big moment.