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By Lindsay Graham

What is a primary election?

What is a primary election?

In the early 20th century, there was a huge progressive movement to allow “we the people” to have more say in the nominations for the political parties. The primary election is actually not just a single election but, instead, a season of elections. The primary season begins in February of the election year and goes until June. The primary election is a very specific part of electing the next President of the United States. It is when registered voters make their voices heard through their votes on which candidate should represent the party. This process is completed through a secret ballot.

No single type of primary

There are different kinds of primaries and each type is determined by who is allowed to vote in which one.

  • Open Primary: This type of primary allows registered voters to vote in either primary, no matter their party affiliation.
  • Closed Primary: This type allows registered voters to vote only in their identified party’s primary. For instance, a registered Democrat would be allowed to place a vote only in the Democratic primary and the same for a Republican in the Republican primary.
  • Blanket Primary: This type is not so common. It is called a blanket primary because it allows registered voters to vote in all primaries.
  • Semi-Closed Primary: This type follows the same rules as a closed primary except that you don’t have to be affiliated with a particular party in order to vote.

What happens at a primary election is that registered voters cast their vote for who they want to be the delegate for their affiliated party. The primary election is for states to determine which party candidates they want to represent their state at the national conventions. Depending on the type of primary being held, registered voters make their choice known through voting. These votes are not tied to their identities due to it being a secret ballot.

After the primaries

The primary serves as a means to collect public opinion; however, it is not concrete in choosing delegates. Depending on the party, delegates are nominated individuals who will attend the national party convention as a result of the states’ primary elections. These delegates then attend the national conventions and place their votes on who should be chosen among the candidates to represent each party during the general election.

Main Takeaways

  • Primary elections are used to get an accurate portrayal of delegates for each party to vote at national conventions
  • There are different types of primaries, but mainly two types are used
  • Primary elections are conducted through secret ballots
  • National conventions are when delegates vote on which candidate will represent the party in the general election
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