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Difference Between Caucus and Primary

640px-Congressional_Hispanic_Caucus_meeting_at_White_House_2009

The caucus and the primary are two methods that the major political parties use to choose presidential candidates in the United States. Political parties often have a number of people who are qualified to run for a given election, and the parties must decide which candidate they want to back. They do this by having the members of each party in each state vote for their preferred candidate, and they then use that to assign delegates. Each state has a certain number of delegates for each party. The candidate who wins the most caucus or primary votes for the party in that state will be awarded the majority of the state party’s delegates. The candidate who wins the most delegates overall will advance to the presidential election.

In a caucus, registered members of a political party are invited to a meeting if it’s closed, and anyone is allowed if it is open. The people will discuss and debate the candidates. Afterwards, the voting commences. The voters will either raise their hands or gather together in groups to show who they’re voting for. All the votes are tallied manually and the winner goes on to represent the political party. Sometimes, other political business will be dealt with at the caucus.

Caucuses were the original method of choosing candidates in the United States. It was a part of the governing system in the original thirteen English colonies, well before the American Revolution. Later on, people began to feel it was more democratic to have a secret ballot. They thought that when people are all voting in the middle of a room, it would be very easy to see who everyone else was voting for. Each person would have to publically declare who they wanted to vote for. This could make people feel self-conscious about voting against the majority and that could influence them to choose a different candidate than they would otherwise have picked. By making each person vote privately, it would take away any other influences and allow people to vote without any distractions or peer pressure. However, people who support caucuses say that less secrecy is a good thing and that seeing who is voting for which candidate may influence voters in a positive way.

In primaries, voting takes place by having the voters cast a ballot instead of physically travelling to a meeting and publically declaring their choice. The primary system also allows for absentee or early voting, while caucuses do not.

The term covers a few different kinds of elections, though they all have ballots. While caucuses tend to be split between open and closed, there are several different kinds of primaries. Closed primaries only allow registered members of the party to participate. Semi-closed primaries allow unregistered voters to participate, as long as they are not registered with the other major party. Open primaries allow everyone to participate, including members of the other party. They often print one ballot with all potential candidates on it, and the voter chooses which candidate of all of those to vote for. A semi-open primary is similar, but there are separate ballots and the voter must declare which party’s ballot they want. There is also a run-off primary, in which any voters may vote for any candidate, but the candidates are chosen based on votes instead of party affiliation. This means that if two members of one party receive the most votes overall in the primary, they will both proceed to the election.

To summarize, caucuses are systems where a voter must be present and publically announce their votes. In primaries, there are secret ballots and early or absentee voting is often allowed. Either one may be closed, meaning that only registered voters can choose candidates, or open, meaning that everyone can participate, or somewhere in-between.


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