How Political Primaries Work

Political Primaries: Cheat Sheet

Stuff You Need to Know

  • Political primaries were born from the Progressive Era of the early 20th century. It was a means of wrestling control of picking a party's candidate from the elite to the voters.
  • Primaries are either closed or open, with independent voters being barred from closed primaries, where the voter must have a party affiliation. In blanket primaries, any voter can vote as he or she pleases.
  • In primaries, candidates are awarded delegates, voters who represent larger blocks of voters.
  • A candidate can win all party delegates in a state or a proportion of them based on the percentage of the votes won by the candidate in the primary.
  • The use of delegates rather than simple votes is one of the big criticisms of political primaries.

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