Caucuses & Primaries

THE BASICS

Caucus: Organized by political parties, a caucus is a meeting of supporters of a specific political party who gather to elect delegates to choose whom they believe should be the candidate in a given election.

Primary: A primary is a method of selecting a candidate similar to that of a general election. It is an organized statewide event put on by the state government where voters cast a secret ballot for the candidate of their choosing. Whomever receives a majority of the votes is the winner.

 

DIGGING DEEPER

The election cycle in the United States is long. Years before the date of the election, possible presidential candidates begin speaking and touring, trying to get a sense of how much public support for their candidacy exists. The majority of candidates belong to one of two major parties in the United States, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Both parties select their candidates in nominating conventions which occur in the months before the national election in November of the election year. Who the parties select is dependent upon which candidate possess the majority of delegates at the nominating convention. It is these delegates that voters are truly making the selection of the candidate, not your vote!

There are two main methods by which these candidates are selected. These methods are a primary and a caucus. A primary is a method of selecting a candidate similar to that of a general election. It is an organized statewide event put on by the state government where voters cast a secret ballot for the candidate of their choosing. Whomever receives a majority of the votes is the winner. In state and local elections, this candidate goes on to run for the office. In a presidential primary, however, the winner is given a majority number of the state’s delegates to the nominating convention. Most states only allow voters to participate in the party’s primary in which they identify as a member.

A caucus is a very different process. Organized by the political parties themselves, caucuses are a “meeting of neighbors”. Groups of citizens come together in local assemblies to discuss who they think will be the best candidate. At the end of the meeting, an election is held where by delegates to a county or state convention who pledge to support the majority candidate are selected. These delegates go on to select the delegates to the national convention, who will eventually choose which candidate from that party will run for office.

So how did this complex system come about? And why do the political parties have so much control? Well stay tuned to Think the Vote to find out!