Podcast # 6: Primary Elections

Primary elections help to narrow down the pool of candidates for a Political Party. Presidential candidates are selected at their respective party’s convention. The number of delegates that each state has along with delegates from American territories is derived from the State’s share of the total democratic or Republican popular vote in the last Presidential election as well the proportion of the electoral college vote.

Types of Primary elections:

Closed Primaries: only individuals who are registered to vote as a Democrat or Republican can vote in the political party’s primary election

Open Primary: Not Common. Don’t need to be registered in a particular political party. Can only vote for 1 candidate or party. Can declare party affiliation on election day.

Semi Open Primary: also known as a mixed primary. Voters registered as independents can vote in a primary for one party or candidate.

Why Primaries Matter:

Candidates who have success early on get more media attention. This leads to more name recognition among the general public and more campaign donations.

States such as Iowa and New Hampshire have early primary dates. These states have a small number of electoral college votes yet, candidates spend a great deal of time and money there. These early primary dates are testing grounds for the Presidential hopefuls. Some candidates even suspending campaigns after them when it appears they won’t seem likely to win future primaries in other states.

Iowa Primary: Iowa has a Caucus. The Democrat and Republican Caucus differ.

Democratic caucus in Iowa

Those involved vote according to precinct and sit according to which candidate they support or if they are undecided. (Imagine a high school Pep Rally if you would.) A debate is held where individuals try to persuade others to vote for their candidate. The candidates are narrowed down based on popularity and the democrats allow for a realignment process. Voters who supported candidates that had less than 15% of the vote can chose a different candidate to support that is more likely to win.

Where the Republican Caucus in Iowa differs is that they don’t allow for a realignment process and there is no minimum viability

Issues with the Iowa Caucus of 2020

It took weeks to learn the results

The State’s Democratic Party chair resigned.

Issues with the App, downloading it, using the app to report the results, a poorly staffed call center led to people waiting on hold for hours or even resorting to texting in results.

South Carolina follows the New Hampshire Primary and its results are used to anticipate how candidates will do in other Southern States.

Some larger states have moved up the dates of their primary so as to minimize the impact that smaller states have on the General Election.

The major primary date is Super Tuesday. It is considered sink or swim for candidates. 14 states hold their primaries this date. It is held in either the February or March before the Presidential election. It consists of mostly southern states. The next Super Tuesday is March 3, 2020.

California traditionally holds its primary later in the Spring, but this year will be included in Super Tuesday. (Kamala Harris from California, could this be to her advantage?)

Depending on the primary schedule, there can be more than one Super Tuesday, this year primary season we will see 2 or 3

By the time of the Political Party Convention that Candidate has already been determined, but that wasn’t always the case.

The general election begins after both the DNC and the RNC.

Important terms to know in order to better understand this process:

Pledged delegates: delegates vote based on the results of primary or caucus.

Super delegates: (unpledged) they tend to be party insiders. They can decide who the nominee will be. They tend to want someone with National appeal. Considerations include: amount of money in campaign, and their ability to raise money and attract big donors.


Originally supposed to be held July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Due to the Coronavirus, it was changed to Aug 17-20th

According to Ballotpedia.org

It is estimated that their will be 4,532 delegates

3,768 pledged

764 super delegates

New rule surrounding super delegates this year after the last DNC – super delegates will only be allowed to vote for a nominee in the first round IF the that candidate has enough votes from pledged delegates alone to win.

RNC was originally supposed to be held in Charlotte – concerns over Social Distancing needs and requirements led to a change in location. Day 1 will be held in Charlotte and the remaining events and speeches will take place in Jacksonville Florida. The GOP was forced to make the change due to President Trump’s desire to accept his party’s nomination in front of a large crowd.

Based on Tradition, because there is a Republican President, The Republican Convention will be held after the DNC.

The Purpose of Nominating Conventions:

At one point in history it was to select the Vice President and Presidential nominees for a Political Party. Since 1980, we know going into the conventions who the nominees will be. Today, the conventions act as a Grand stage for Candidates to sell themselves and their platform to the American Public. Speeches are made by rising stars within the party. Signaling the future of who could potentially be a future candidate. Think of it as one big advertisement, drawing in viewers across the country and the world for multiple days.

Issues with the Primary Elections of 2020

Impact of the Pandemic on Primary elections:


Long lines, voting equipment broken, missing or arrived late, some absentee ballots never sent, absentee ballots sent but didn’t have return envelope included.

NY saw some poll locations changed last minute, some opened late because volunteers were late due to subway closures, many absentee ballots around 765,000. Reports that individuals had requested absentee ballots but hadn’t received them and were forced to make the choice to go and vote in person or not vote at all.

Recent Episodes