Delegates and Primaries and Caucuses: Oh My!

Delegates and Primaries and Caucuses: Oh My!

This election has seen a massive voter turnout in the youth of the United States. The millennial generation is finally able to have their voice heard, and their voice is being heard. The biggest problem with such a massive young voter turnout is that many of today’s youth don’t know how the primary process works.

The primary elections are the elections that decide the nominees for each party. The Democratic and Republican parties each have a certain amount of delegates to reach to become the party’s nominee. Each party has different rules and different processes.

The Democratic primary process awards delegates with a proportional method. Basically, whatever percentage of the total vote a candidate receives in a certain state, they receive that percentage of the state’s delegates. The Republican primary process allows each state to decide whether it is a winner-take-all state, where whoever receives the most votes wins all the delegates, or a proportional method state.

There are two different types of primaries: open and closed primaries. In open primaries, anyone can vote for any candidate regardless of party affiliation, but they can only vote once. For example, an independent voter can vote Democrat, but then cannot vote on the Republican side. A Republican can vote for a Democrat but cannot then vote Republican after that. In closed primaries, registered voters can only vote along party lines. So Democratic voters have to vote for a Democratic candidate, and Republican voters have to vote for a Republican candidate. However, primaries aren’t the only method for voting and deciding how delegates are awarded.

Caucuses were the original method of voting, but are not as common anymore. A caucus is where a date, time, and location are selected and any registered member of the party can show up and voice his/her opinion of who would best represent the views of the party. At the caucus, delegates are chosen to represent the state’s interests at the party’s national convention. Delegates are either “favorable” to a candidate or uncommitted. Then after debate, an informal vote is taken to decide the delegates.

Still a little confused? Here’s a video to give you a visual!

A candidate must receive a certain number of delegates before the convention in order for it to be uncontested. Contested conventions are rare, and only occur when none of the candidates reach the majority number of delegates. The number of required delegates for Democrats is 2,382 and the number for Republicans is 1,237. This is because of the Superdelegate system that the Democratic party uses.

Superdelegates are Democratic Party officials put in place to preserve the party’s platform and prevent outsider grass-roots movements from gaining too much power and being elected on the Democratic ticket. These superdelegates possess the same power at the convention as pledged delegates (delegates chosen by the voters of each state). At each party’s convention, delegates collectively decide the candidate that will represent the party in the general election.

It is vital that the young voters in the country have their voice heard, but it is also vital that these young voters are educated about the process, along with whom and for what they are voting. 

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