Category: US Elections

US Elections: Primaries and Caucuses

The political parties in the United States (US) are more active than ever as they choose their nominees for the November 2020 general elections. But, unlike in other countries, candidates are chosen through a series of caucuses and primaries that will determine voters’ preference.

What are Caucuses?

Caucuses are small private gatherings of political party members where they nominate, or elect nominees, for the upcoming elections. These gatherings may be in churches, schools, libraries or even members’ private homes to allow the party members openly express their preferred candidate. If any candidate gets under 15% of the vote in any caucus, their supporters then get to pick a second choice from among the candidates who did get more than 15%, or they can just choose to sit out the second vote.

What are primaries?

A primary is a system developed by US political parties over time. Under this system, the government establishes booths that the citizens can visit and choose a candidate they want to run in the general election for a specific political party.

Just like the caucus, a primary is a process that narrows down the number of candidates in an upcoming election. But unlike a caucus, a party member may just tun-up anytime at a government-designated booth, write in a ballot his nominee of choice, and leave. There are no deliberations, whatsoever.

There are two types of primaries and these depend on the rules of the State — the closed primary wherein only registered members of a political party are allowed to vote or choose their nominee, and the open primary where voters, regardless of their political party affiliation, can vote or choose or a nominee for his own party or another party. An example of the latter is that a Republican voter may request for a ballot for the Democratic Party and choose a candidate that he/she thinks can represent the Democrats.

Technically, “primary voters are not voting directly for a candidate even if, on paper, that’s what seems to be happening. Instead, how they vote determines how each state’s delegates are divided up among the candidates during each party’s nominating convention. The delegates are actually the ones who choose the nominee.”

Caucuses and primaries are not part of the US Constitution. Practice, however, made it part of the political process to narrow down the number of candidates in US elections.