by Mr. Lakhaney

Primaries 101 (It’s Complicated)

What is a primary election? Why do we have primary elections?
We have two major parties in our nation today, the Republican and Democratic parties.  Within each party, there is a variety of opinions and sometimes there is more than one person in a party who wants run for a particular office.  A primary is the election within a party to choose the candidate to represent that party in the general election.  It’s like the election before the election.  There are primaries for many different offices such as President, Senate, Mayor, city council, etc.

How does our primary process work?
When it comes to the Presidential Primary elections, each party decides when each state has its vote.  In 2008, the primary elections started in January with Iowa and finish up in June with Puerto Rico.  When a candidate receives the majority of the votes cast, he or she is said to have won that state.  Each party makes up its own rules about how the delegates are given out.  The Republican Party has some primaries where the winner gets all of the delegates and some in which the delegates are given out proportional the number of votes cast (if two candidates split the vote 60-40, they split the delegates 60-40). The Democratic Party has all of its delegates given out proportionally.

Who can vote in a primary?
In some states, anyone can vote, in other states, you have to be a member of that party to vote.  You can only vote in one primary.

What is a delegate?
A delegate is a person chosen by the candidate to represent a state.  When a candidate wins a state, delegates are pledged to support the winning candidate the national party convention when the nominee is chosen.

How do you know how many delegates each state gets?
Each state gets a number of delegates that is determined by a confusing formula based on the population of the state.  States can be given more delegates based on how strong the party is in that state.  They would get bonus delegates for having a governor, a majority of the state assembly, or many registered members of that party.

What’s the difference between a caucus and a primary?
A primary is an election in which people go into voting booths and vote for which person they want.  A caucus is basically when people of a party get together at a meeting place and discuss which candidate they support and can convince each other to support their candidate.  People declare their support for candidates publicly.

Why is the Democratic primary still going?
Because there was strong competiton inside both Republican and Democratic parties, it has taken both parties longer than usual to decide candidates, especially the Democratic party.

What’s a Super Delegate?
They’re not faster than a speeding bullet but they do have the super power to overturn elections.  It is a person that has an important position in the political party that gets to help decide whom the nominee will be.  They can support any candidate they want, unlike pledged delegates.

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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