Tuesday, April 19, 2016

American Presidential Primaries 101

Today is the New York presidential primary! We put together a basic guide for NYLC students about America’s rather complex presidential nomination process.

In order to become a presidential nominee, candidates have to win a majority of delegates. Delegates are won by winning either the majority of votes in the entire state or in specific districts. A Republican needs to win 1,237 delegates to become the Republican nominee, while a Democratic candidate needs to win 2,383. Superdelegates (unelected delegates free to support a candidate of their choice) are an important factor in the Democratic presidential primary. On the other hand, the Republican Party does not utilize superdelegates.

These are the types of primaries depending on the state where you live.
Closed Primary:
New York is one of 11 states that have a closed presidential primary. A closed primary means that voters can only cast ballots for candidates running in the parties that they are registered in. So only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary and only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. Registered Independents and those registered with third-parties (i.g. Green or Libertarian) will not be able to vote for either Republican or Democratic Presidential Candidates. Closed primaries are adverse to candidates who have crossover appeal (i.e. candidates who could get a large number of votes from members of other parties).

Semi-Closed Primary:
Only unaffiliated voters and voters registered with the party holding the primary can participate in semi-closed primaries.  An Independent can vote in the Democratic primary but a Republican cannot.

Open Primary:
An open primary allows registered voters to cast their ballots for any presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation. Supporters of open primaries over closed primaries argue that open primaries lead to larger voter turnout.  They also point to the growing percentage of voters who are not registered to either of the two major parties. Opponents of open primaries, on the other hand, believe that they lead to the nomination of centrists or broad-appealing candidates, and therefore, more ideologically conventional candidates will be at a disadvantage.

Semi-open Primary:
Voting is also open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation. Upon arrival at the voting place, however, voters must request a specific party’s ballot, unlike the open primary where the names of all the candidates are on the ballots. 

Once the most popular way of nominating presidential candidates, caucuses are now held in only ten states and the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands.  Caucuses are local gatherings organized by the state or a specific political party.

Former candidate, Marco Rubio, at a caucus in Iowa. 

Contested Convention/ Open Convention:
Both Democratic and Republican parties each hold national conventions at the end of a presidential primary cycle. Their contemporary purpose is to bring an entire party behind a single nominee regardless of previous support. A contested convention occurs when no single candidate has won a majority of the delegates. Contested conventions used to be common but have become extremely rare in recent decades. Basic rules about contested conventions are being rehashed in the news because it is looking increasingly likely that the Republican National Convention (RNC) will be contested. The last contested RNC was in 1976. 

2012 Republican National Convention

The candidates currently running are Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. U.S. political candidates are often targets of comedic attacks on television. Below are some Saturday Night Live skits spoofing the candidates. 



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