Political Education

Primaries and Caucuses, What Are The Differences?

What is the difference between a primary election and a primary caucus, and how does this affect the voter?  In a primary election, registered voters get to vote for the person they want to see as their presidential nominee, sort of.  In reality, you are voting for a group of delegates to vote for your person of choice at the national convention if your state has pledged delegates.  If your state has unpledged delegates, in the end, they could vote for whoever they want.  Now there are open and closed primary elections.  Open primary elections mean that anyone can vote, doesn’t have to be a registered member of any party, for whoever they want.  In a closed primary, only the people registered for a specific political party can vote for a particular group of candidates.  Most states have a date one must register for a party before the election or change your party affiliation before the elections.

Grey states have closed primary or caucus

The Green States have open primary or caucus

Blue States have semi-open primary or caucus (independents can vote in the GOP primary)

Now Caucus states are different.  In short, a caucus is when in each county or state, a group of people goes to a specific place to choose their candidate.  The supporters for each candidate group themselves together, and the undecided group in another area.  The people from the other groups then make speeches to get the undecideds to come over to their group.  Kind of reminds me of a popularity contest in high school.  The GOP runs their causes in a winner-take-all fashion, so the winner of the county caucus goes to the state Caucasus then; from there, the delegates from the state caucus go on to the national convention to choose their candidate.

If this all still doesn’t make sense check out CGP Grey’s video about this topic

I hope this clears up the difference between a caucus and a primary.  Check your state’s voting website for specific questions about your state.

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