Primaries and Caucuses

THERE ARE TWO voting procedures used by states to select the presidential nominee for each party: primaries and caucuses. However, the two could hardly be more different.

A primary is a general election where people vote for a candidate (actually the delegates pledged to support that candidate.) Closed primaries require voters to be members of the candidate's political party. All registered voters are allowed to vote in states with open primaries.

Caucuses are longer party meetings and involve debate over each candidate's merits and faults. At the end of the caucus, party members vote for their candidate of choice.8

Many consider the Iowa Caucus, Jan. 19, and the New Hampshire Primary, Jan. 27, important because they are the first two contests of the year and winning in these states can put a candidate in the spotlight.6