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US presidential elections 2016: What are primaries and how are they different from caucuses?


Primaries make up the electoral process to nominate a candidate for a presidential election in the United States. Unlike a caucus (another electoral method used by states of that country) where voters gather and openly decide which candidate to support, a primary sees the electorate simply casting their ballots.

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Voting eligibility:

The eligibility of voting in a primary depends on the stat. While some states allow only registered party members to cast their ballots, some allow party registration on the same day. There are others who are open to all residents of the state to vote. In a caucus on the other hand, only members registered with a political party can take part.

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Voting procedure:

While the primaries see a secret ballot, in caucuses the voting takes place at local party meetings and is done either by raising hands or splintering into groups.


Moreover, while primaries are organised and sponsored by state governments, caucuses are held and financed by state parties.

Types of primaries:

1. Closed: People may vote in a party's primary only if they are the registered members of that party. Independents can't take part in such primaries.

2. Open: A registered voter may cast his ballot in any party primary irrespective of his own affiliation to a political party. When voters do not register with a party before the primary, it is called a pick-a-party primary since they can choose which party's primary they want to vote on the Election Day.

3. Semi-closed: Like in closed primaries, the registered party members can vote only in their own party's primary. However, it also allows unaffiliated voters to participate. Depending on the state, the Independents either make their choice of party primary privately or publicly, by registering with any party on the Election Day.

4. Semi-open: A registered voter need not reveal publicly which political party's primary they will vote in before entering the booth. When voters identify themselves to the election officials, they must request a party's specific ballot. Only one ballot is cast by each voter. In many states with semi-open primaries, election officials or poll workers from the parties record each voter's choice of party and provide access to this information.

5. Run-off: A primary where the ballot is not restricted to a party and the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

States that follow:

Whilee Iowa, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, Wyoming and North Dakota use the caucuses, the rest use the primaries.

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