Parties and Platforms

Campaigns and Nominations

What is a primary?

A primary is a state-run election for the purpose of nominating party candidates to run in the general election. Presidential primaries perform this function indirectly, because voters elect delegates to a national convention rather than directly seeking presidential candidates. Most states restrict voting in a primary to party members; such states are called closed primary states. Open primary states allow the voter to choose either party’s ballot in the voting booth on primary day, and none of the open primary states require voter registration by party. Today, more than three-fourths of the states use presidential primaries; in the 2000 presidential election, approximately 84 percent of the Democratic delegates and 89 percent of the Republican delegates were chosen in the primaries.


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