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Primary Elections Explained

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Primary elections are how political parties in the United States pick their strongest

candidate to run for president. The parties do this by holding mini-elections

in each of the states and the candidates with the most votes from these elections becomes

the parties’ official nominees; these nominees then face each other in the national election

for president. But this isn’t the whole story. There are

five things that make it a bit more complicated than that…

Complication #1: Primaries vs Caucuses In every state, the local party leaders decide

how to run their elections. The two most common choices are primaries and caucuses.

Primaries are just like standard elections. Go to the polls whenever you can, stand in

a long line, hide in a booth, then tick a box or press a button and your vote is cast

in complete anonymity. A Caucus, however, is a public vote.

People gather in groups wherever space is available then literally take sides in the

room with everyone else who likes the same candidate.

The groups debate each other and, if people change their minds, they need to physically

switch sides. At the end of the debates party representatives

count the number of people in each group. If you leave too early, you don’t count.

This description of primaries and caucuses is really all you need to know but the specifics

can vary wildly. That’s because there are fifty states all

of which hold at least two primaries and caucuses for the big parties, and possibly more for

the small parties. Covering all the local variants would take

a tediously long time which your short attention span for boring political videos wouldn’t