Talk:United States presidential primary

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I think this article needs to be marked as biased. The primary system is not without controversies, and the comments about Iowa and New Hampshire seems to support the status quo. Comments about how Iowa and NH's early causes and primaries allegedly helps dark horse candidates or give campaigning a more person sense should be reserved for a "Controversies" section. There is a debate about the current system. For example, New Hampshire voters having disproportionally large influence is not universally viewed as a positive attribute. SiriusAlphaCMa 03:28, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Simultaneous primaries[edit]

One thing this article lacks is an explanation of how it came to pass that in each state the Republicans and Democrats have their primaries at the same time. Such a high degree of co-ordination and co-operation by two rival political parties would probably be criticized as collusion in most countrhiInsert non-formatted text hereies. While it may seem natural to many Americans, I can't be the only non-American who finds this puzzling. Also, although this article might not be the best place for it, there seems to be no article that explains how third-party candidates get on the presidential ballot.--Indefatigable 18:03, 2 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The high degree of coordination is due to the fact that in most states the parties don't pay for the election, the state does. So, when California, say, holds its primary, the enormous cost of setting up polling places and tabulating returns is born by the State of California. That gives the state the ability to refuse a party's request to change the date of its primary. Some states use this primary election date as an event to take votes on other matters as well. For example, on primary day, a ballot initiative might be offered that all registered voters can vote on regardless of what party they are registered with.

Since this article is about primaries, not general elections, it doesn't mention how third parties get on the ballot. However, if a registered third party wants to have a primary to determine who among them will run in the general election, they can choose to participate in the State's primary schedule and save themselves the cost of having to operate some self-funded alternate process for picking candidates. Once the primaries are over, however, there is no guarantee their candidates will ever appear on the general election ballot.

Getting on a general election ballot is a separate process with rules that vary widely from state to state. A few states try to make entry to the ballot fairly easy for any party small or large. Typically, a small number of signatures on a petition is required. There are many states, though, that have made ballot access nearly impossible for smaller parties.

Jg og 2 (talk) 13:53, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Primary vs Caucus[edit]

Though I have read throughtly yet, I agree that the article lacks explantions for non-American readers. For example, I was looking for the difference between Primary and caucus but it doesn't say anything. Oh, although it is probably obviously for almost everyone that the US is two party system, the article should mention that. To my knowldge, I think theoretically possible to run for the president if you are not a member of political parties. In short, my impression is that the article is written by Americans for Americans. Any input from non-American should be helpful. -- Taku 20:42, Mar 2, 2004 (UTC)

Questions from a European.[edit]

Are primaries for members or for everyone? How does one get the right to vote in a primary for a certain party? Do all parties have primaries, or only the major parties? Is it required by law, or just common practice? Is the infrastructure for the voting party or government infrastructure, e.g. who counts the votes after a primary? Does voting in a primary have any consequences, or is it secret? How many people vote in primaries? Are they targeted via mainstream media or is it a small and dedicated, high-educated group that is targeted using special channelS? Gerrit CUTEDH 18:50, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

Very good questions! The rules vary by state. In some states you have to be previously registered as a Democrat/Republican to vote in that primary. In New Hampshire, all registered Republicans and registered Independents can vote in the Republican primary, and all registered Democrats and registered Independents can vote in the Democratic primary. Entry into the primaries are controlled by the parties EXCEPT that voting ion election day is supervised by local government, which counts the votes. Voting is secret in all primaries but OPEN in the Iowa Caucus and other caucuses. The primaries are very well covered by the media if there is a contest. The minor parties choose to not have primaries. Turnout varies but in a contested race expect 35-50% turnout of those eligible. Rjensen 19:01, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
What Rjensen says is basically right, but I'd point out a couple of things. First, sometimes minor parties do participate. No party is actually required to pay any attention to the results of the primary (at least, not for president; the situation for state office is less clear). Parties make their own nominating rules and can pretty much do what they want; if they want to pick their presidential nominee in the classic "smoke-filled room" then as far as I know there's no law against it, and any such law would probably be unconstitutional. Presumably the parties resist the temptation to do that for fear that the public reaction to it would cost them votes. --Trovatore 19:02, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

I too am a European, impressed by the American democratic system. I have some questions on the relationship between the national parties and the 50 states: What would happen if a state defied the parties' rules on primaries, and (say) held its primary at the wrong time? California is in the process of passing a law which advances the date of its primary. Does this mean it will be punished by having its delegates' votes discounted at the party conferences? Why did the parties acquiesce in the changes made by those southern states which established Super Tuesday? Isn't Super Tuesday just bullying? Who pays for primaries and caucuses, and counting the votes - is it the states, or the parties? Why do the states have the power to determine franchise in the primaries, when the primaries are held for the benefit of the parties? Benedict Rodgers 14:27, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

The state committees cannot push the boundaries too far, or they would risk being decertified by the national party under the party rules. But on top of the rules, a great deal of media and campaign infrastructure is in place in Iowa and New Hampshire and there is little incentive for a candidate to spend a lot of time in Alaska or Hawaii, which regularly hold GOP caucuses before Iowa, because they count for even less in the press than at convention. And there is the example of 1996; the Louisiana Republican Party moved their caucus up trying to upstage Iowa, and Phil Gramm's campaign wanted to use it to gain early momentum. Instead, he was humiliated by Pat Buchanan and quit the race after coming in fifth in Iowa. Other than the Iowa and New Hampshire-first rule, I don't think the national parties have strict rules on scheduling, so organizing something like Super Tuesday is a matter of coordination by state legislatures and parties and not any sort of mass civil disobedience. The costs of primaries are covered by the states with public funds, and different states fund their election commissions by different means. The government's power to regulate the primaries derives from a 1941 Supreme Court ruling, United States v. Classic, which states that even though a party is a private organization, because the state allows the parties to select candidates to hold elective office, a party primary is a state action. Also see Smith v. Allwright. -choster 03:25, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
I believe South Carolina does not fund its primary with public dollars. Parties pay for the election process. See: Chris Cillizza, Chris. Fundraiser to Help Underwrite S.C. Primary Washington Post,Friday, February 23, 2007; Page A08. Yellowdesk 14:44, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

Also note- Several states HAVE gotten their votes stripped or halved for moving up this year, such as Florida and Michigan for the Democrats. Also, Super (Duper?) Tuesday is neither disobedience nor coordination; February Fifth is merely the earliest date allowed without permission by both parties. See for more info. :-) --Cheeesemonger (talk) 11:48, 23 January 2008 (UTC)


I started out expanding the history section and ended up rewriting the entire article, partly to Indefatigable and Gerrit's concerns and to incorporate Rjensen's improvements. There's probably more to say in the criticisms and propsoed reforms sections, but I didn't have time to research them. Fire away. - choster 20:57, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Nice job! I rephrased it slightly. Rjensen 23:32, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

New Hampshire & Iowa[edit]

The history section looks good, but I think it would be helpful if someone could clarify how these two states got to hold their primaries first in the first place. Why were they singled out for this huge advantage? Sylvain1972 14:48, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

The history for New Hampshire is that thrifty yankees held their primary the same day they had their annual town meetings to establish their town budgets and taxes, in late winter/early spring, starting in 1916. The towns only need to heat the town hall one day, and everyone was already in the room. Years later the primary became more and more significant, and party-boss influence diminished. New Hampshire became a method for individuals to upset the dominant trends and thinking, and demonstrate electability. In 1952 Eisenhower demonstrated this by defeating Taft in the Republican primary. From the 1970s the primary became earlier and earlier, as the state legislature attempted to keep New Hampshire in the public eye, and not incidentally, have the benefit of national expenditures in an economically challenged state. See New_Hampshire_primary, which needs expansion. -- Yellowdesk 14:55, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

"Classic" primary states[edit]

I was wondering what the states were that held primaries between 1932 and 1968. The current article says 13 or 14, but it would be useful, I think, to list them all (and even to have articles about each one and their history). I can glean from various wikipedia articles on presidential elections in this period that there were, in one election or another, primaries in the following states:

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. Illinois
  4. Indiana
  5. Maryland
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Nebraska
  8. New Hampshire
  9. New Jersey
  10. Ohio
  11. Oregon
  12. Pennsylvania
  13. Texas
  14. West Virginia
  15. Wisconsin

This, unfortunately, appears to be 15 states. I will note, though, that I'd never heard of a Texas primary other than in the wikipedia article on the 1964 election. The rest of them are more or less familiar to me. Are any of these wrong? Are there any others? What states had primaries in 1920, but got rid of them by 1932? Are there any good online sources on this stuff? john k 19:07, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

  • A visit to a college library and researching the political science and American political history journals is your best bet. It's a hot topic. It would be fabulous to have a good article on the changing influence of primaries, the downfall of party-boss-centered selection of candidates during the 20th century. Even the last 25 years has a big story. With all of the big states moving their dates, the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire is effectively over, since the candidates need to have huge fundraising enterprises, and a national campaign already in place, more than six months ahead of the events in 15 big states for subsequent post-Iowa and post-New Hampshire primaries. The days of someone like Jimmy Carter organizing a silently successful initial primary / caucus are over. -- Yellowdesk 14:36, 4 May 2007 (UTC)
  • Has anyone been able to find a list of delegates assigned to each state? I've been looking online to no avail. I downloaded the PDF file of Democratic Party Selection Rules and even that had nothing about the exact delegate counts. Anyone else have a better idea of where to look? Standard101 (talk) 13:45, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

hard to understand[edit]

this article is hard for non americans to understand. i suggest that it should be simplified for the benifit of the rest of the world. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:40, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

agreed. what about a full list of primary dates, or at least a link to the full list where this article mentions key dates? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:07, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree, as a Canadian I find this article quite incomplete and jumpy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:59, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

There's a list of dates at if anyone still wants it. --Cheeesemonger (talk) 11:49, 23 January 2008 (UTC

OK, that's a list of dates but I found THIS article impossible to understand. Wkipedia is a world-wide source and an article should stand up in its own right. Robertcornell68 (talk) 10:12, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

I realise that wasn't a helpful criticism. I think the article assumes knowledge of USA political institutions and that simply naming a state will trigger a response. (wrt it's "importance") - also it concentrates on the 2008 elections, it needs to be more general.Robertcornell68 (talk) 10:20, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

Also totally agree. ALL I WANTED TO KNOW, simply, was the difference between a primary and a caucus. For once, I'm going to have to look outside of wiki (talk) 02:31, 3 March 2008 (UTC)snaxalotl

This article shouldn't have a list of dates. We have articles on the 2008 primaries which give full schedules. This article should be about presidential primaries, generally, and throughout their existence. john k (talk) 07:05, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

Missing Information: Why Primaries/Caucuses[edit]

This article needs to explain why some states only hold cacuses (which seems to be of lesser value) and others hold primaries - especially since some articles (in 2008) suggested that basically anybody could join an Iowa cacus by pretending to live there and vote for of a candidate - ie, not a very serious voting system. --IceHunter (talk) 21:06, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm also confused about the state legislatures' roles in setting primary dates. What is the legal basis for state governments involving themselves with the internal workings of the 2 parties? Is this a role the parties cede to the legislature? Bills relating to party workings are effectively party work, not government work. Is this recognised as a state subsidy to the parties? (talk) 18:20, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

I just came here to ask a similar question. Can someone add information explaining how state governments came to have a role in dictating to parties how they will select their candidates? I get the impression, for example, that primaries are held mostly by Democrats and Republicans, and that minor parties in the same states are small groups who automatically nominate their leader or what have you and don't have state primaries at all. Is it that some states have decreed the means of selection of Democrats and Republicans but not other parties? Or is it that if a party decides to have its nominees selected by convention delegates and decides to have those delegates selected by some process that involves asking the state to make its election facilities available for use by the public to vote in those primaries, then in those cases the states have rules governing how those primaries using its facilities will operate? I'm asking this particularly in light of Newt Gingrich's lawsuit against Virginia, claiming that the rule that signature gatherers be Virginia residents is unconstitutional. What is the source of this rule, and what constitutional restrictions can there possibly be on the right to have such a rule? To understand this, I feel I need to understand in the first place how Virginia has a role at all in dictating how the Republican Party will determine who can run in the Republican Primary in Virginia. —Largo Plazo (talk) 13:28, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Primaries are run by the states, caucuses are run by the parties. The party decides which process to use, but if it's a primary, it's run by the state. So the date of a primary is set by the state, but the date of a caucus is set by the party. And the rules of primaries are set by the state, subject to federal law, of course, hence Virginia's ballot access rule, and the subsequent lawsuit. Now why states get to run primaries - I don't know the history. But the parties like having the state run the primary, as then the party doesn't have to pay for it. Simon12 (talk) 03:25, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Related to "why primaries/caucus," I would like to read why the popular vote does not determine the candidate (both in primaries and general elections, mind you).

I was surprised that there isn't such an explanation in the Controversy section, that's the biggest criticism I can find for the primaries as they are held today. (talk) 12:01, 2 March 2016 (UTC)

Michigan Primary[edit]

I just noticed that the piped link for Michigan Primary in the article directs to Michigan Democratic primary, 2008, thus ignoring the Republican primary. I added a see-also section to the Democratic page, and also created a disambiguation page Michigan Presidential Primary, 2008 (disambiguation) to sort out the difficulties. This article's link now goes to the disambig page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by MatthewLiberal (talkcontribs) 00:23, 16 January 2008 (UTC)


Dumb question from someone unfamiliar with the US election process.

Is there some type of point scoring... I see news about this and that candidate "winning" a state. Do they get 1 point per state, or how does it work? Is there a tally of points won?

I read somewhere that the california vote "doesn't matter"... why is that?

Thanks for any clarification.

--Popoi (talk) 17:45, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

It's not exactly "points" -- they get delegates pledged to vote for them that go to the party's national convention. How many delegates from each state is completely up to the party. The parties are free to completely ignore the primaries if they want. --Trovatore (talk) 17:54, 16 January 2008 (UTC)
The way I heard it, each state is allowed the same number of delegates as congressional representatives. Some states send delegates proportional to the percentage of votes cast for each candidate (although they are not obligated to vote for anyone), others are winner-take-all. The national party conventions can refuse to seat anyone they want, which sometimes leads to a free for all. The whole process seems quite irrational, since the US Constitution never mentions parties.--W8IMP (talk) 03:40, 31 January 2008 (UTC)
It's more complicated than that, and the rules are different for different parties (the rules are made by the party, not by law). The formula used by the Democrats takes into account the Democratic vote in the last election (last presidential election? last congressional election? I don't really know). The Republicans have their own formula; don't know if it's simpler or more complicated. The Dems also have superdelegates, which can be viewed as a compromise between totally respecting the primary outcomes and entirely ignoring them. Minor parties often nominate their candidate before the primaries even happen. --Trovatore (talk) 03:46, 31 January 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure why someone would say California doesn't count. Florida and Michigan currently don't count for the Democrats because they held their primaries earlier than allowed by party rules. To the question, after the early primaries and caucuses, it doesn't matter who wins the state; it is the winner of the delegates that matters. Because determining who has the most delegates is so difficult, reporters talk about who "won" a state. Delegate counts are hard to calculate because the rules vary from state to state and because the actual delegates (or some of them, depending on the state) are not chosen until state conventions weeks or months after the primary.
In terms of how delegates are allocated to states, for Republicans, each state receives 10 automatically plus a number of delegates based upon the state's population. In addition, the state gets bonus delegates for having Republicans in certain key offices (e.g., having a Republican governor), having a majority in the state's congressional delegation, and the like. Finally, the state's party chair, co-chair, and national party committee member are each delegates. How these delegates are allocated among presidential candidates is up to the states. Some give all delegates to the winner of the statewide popular vote, while allocate theirs by proportional representation. Most apportion the delegates based on population using the vote in congressional districts. Some actually allocate the three party-official delegates as pledged delegates. -Rrius (talk) 09:11, 14 February 2008 (UTC)


The article isn't particular clear why Florida and Michigin are punished by the Democratic Party. If they have a similar rule to the Republican party in not allowing primaries before 5th February, then why do South Carolina and New Hampshire escape? Nil Einne (talk) 13:44, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Still terrible on the history[edit]

Man, our coverage of the history of this stuff is still pretty bad - not so much this article, but the fact that we give no detailed accounts of primary results anywhere on Wikipedia is pretty disgraceful. We give winners, but no indication of the dates and order of primaries, whether they were primaries and caucuses, etc. It's pretty bad. john k (talk) 22:19, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Other parties[edit]

I know the Green party of the United States has primary elections probably other "third" parties have them too.

Needs Citations and Further Detail on the Following Statement[edit]

"In recent elections, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have garnered over half the national and international media attention paid to the entire selection process."

Please clarify what the "half" is related to. For example, does it mean half of the column space in newspapers with a circulation of over a certain size? Or, perhaps, over half of the air time on cable programs with a viewership of over a certain size?Evonline (talk) 04:29, 24 May 2008 (UTC)Nancy Volle

Criticism of the Primary System[edit]

I believe there should be a consolidated section on criticism of the primary system. An obvious flaw, which I didn't see mentioned anywhere in the article, is that primary elections are not held on the same day nationwide and, therefore, primary election results are not independent of each other. For example, if a candidate loses a series of early primaries in "small states" (with few actual delegates to the convention), support for him or her tends to plummet in subsequent polls, possibly forcing him/her out of the race even though he/she might have been otherwise originally competitive in other parts of the country. (talk) 19:36, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Too, some sources (38) are no longer properly linked to — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:51, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

Conservative Bias in Primaries[edit]

An analysis of the 2012 Republican presidential primaries shows that not one West Coast or Mid-Atlantic state (New Hampshire is hardly representative of the NorthEast Corridor) votes before Super Tuesday, and only Washington and Massachusetts vote in the roughly-dozen Super Tuesday states (Washington votes only three days before Super Tuesday and no one will drop out because of poor results there, so it should be lumped into Super Tuesday). This obviously tends to weed out the candidates that the higher-electoral-vote Democratic-heavy states would feel good about falling in behind. (talk) 23:05, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Interesting as that is, unless it leads to some proposal for improving the article, this talk page is not the place to discuss it. --Trovatore (talk) 00:17, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Calendar schedule out-of-date[edit]

The calendar schedule is out-of-date. It features the races for 2008, not the upcoming race in '12. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:54, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Merging all U.S. states presidential primary and election articles[edit]

You are invited to join the discussion at Talk:Republican Party presidential primaries, 2012#Merging all U.S. states presidential primary and election articles into one article for each state. The proposal is to merge all articles on different state primaries (both democratic and republican) and the articles on the presidential election (where such exist) in to one single article for each state. See United States presidential election in New Hampshire, 2008 It is possible to see how the 2008 and 2012 articles will look like if this large merges was completed. This issue have been discussed for a month on this talkpage without a clear consensus and the merge proposal is so massive that it would be good to get a wide range of editors to comment on it. Jack Bornholm (talk) 17:01, 21 May 2012 (UTC)

Legal status and clarity[edit]

Its really not clear from this article how much of the primary process is governed by State or Federal Law of the US and how much is just governed by the by-laws of the major parties. For comparison here in Australia we have a similar kind (though much much much less important) of party based vote for parliamentary leader for the Labour party but this is entirely governed by the party themselves, the government doesn't have anything to do with it. It would be good if someone with knowledge of the topic could clarify what is party policy, what is US law (state or federal) and perhaps even what is simply convention or tradition. Also noticeable is the lack of reference to other parties and independent candidates. I know that like in Australia no third party candidate is likely to win in the current system but if any of this is covered by US law then you would think it would apply to other parties as well? Unless there are regulations written which specifically refer to the republican and democratic parties? (talk) 05:51, 14 September 2015 (UTC)

Apparently the answer is, none of the process is covered by law, it is all up to the parties. In fact the statement on the page about most states having "pledged" delegates that are "legally bound" to vote a certain way is a pile of garbage and should be removed. Actually there are no laws, in any state, which require any delegate to vote a certain way, ever. That's why they use the vague term "pledged." It's like if you pledge to send $50 to a charity, it doesn't mean you really have to. Safulop (talk) 19:20, 4 May 2016 (UTC)
The Federal Government is not involved at all in the primary process. Even matching funds don't kick in until after a candidate becomes a nominee. There are literally no two states alike with the same laws, and the parties differ in party rules as well. As to Safulop's point about being "legally bound", you may be correct. The state cannot legally bind a delegate to a candidate in an open primary, as I understand it. Nobs01 (talk) 20:22, 21 May 2016 (UTC)

Super Tuesday[edit]

  • The first successful regional primary was Super Tuesday of March 8, 1988, in which nine Southern states united in the hope that the Democrats would select a candidate in line with Southern interests.[7] It failed as all but two of the eight major candidates won at least one primary on that day.
(1) How can it be "successful" and "failed" at the same time?
(2) A click on the Super Tuesday link says the first Super Tuesday was in 1984, not 1988. Nobs01 (talk) 20:14, 21 May 2016 (UTC)

Entitlement to stand[edit]

This article does not discuss who is entitled to stand as a candidate -- other than via links to ballot access, but that page explains only the requirements for being on a ballot in general and not whether a person needs, for example, to be a member of a particular political party in order to stand for that party's primary. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rosbif73 (talkcontribs) 10:46, 13 October 2016 (UTC)

Probably complicated, likely to vary from state to state and party to party, but sure, would be good to include. Just a note though: Naturally this article is in American English, so the correct word is "run", not "stand". --Trovatore (talk) 14:10, 13 October 2016 (UTC)

Is there an independent group.[edit]

Running as Possible President of the United States of America. LaurinLand (talk) 21:29, 24 January 2018 (UTC)

Vote for Jonathan Edward Laurin as being your 46th president, in the year 2020! LaurinLand (talk) 21:31, 24 January 2018 (UTC)

Yes, they're is the libratarian party. Maybe the same as the independent. Republican party has alot of "Rino's" who are close to being like Democrats, Republican in name only. LaurinLand (talk) 22:05, 24 January 2018 (UTC)