Ready, Set, Vote: Primary Elections

Ready, Set, Vote: Primary Elections

Sarah Khobaib, Student Journalist

What’s the point of primary elections? Primary elections are the process in democratic countries in which voters physically indicate their preference for a candidate in an upcoming general election. Voters must be citizens of the country for the candidates for whom they are voting. They may consist of the general public in an open primary or members of a political party in a closed primary. 

Presidential candidates were initially selected at party conventions. The process began by party members selecting delegates who voted at the convention. Currently, regular voters participate in the primary process. This idea took hold only somewhat recently. New Hampshire didn’t even put candidate names on primary ballots until 1948. There have been substantial changes since then. Now, every state conducts its own primary or caucus. 

The concept of primary elections originated from the 1890s Progressive Movement in the United States, which aimed to eliminate corruption within the government. Since then, two political parties have dominated United States politics: the Republican and the Democrat. If a voter wants to help determine which candidates will fill the party seats, they must take part in the party primary system.  Primary elections take decision-making from political insiders to voters. The candidate who moves from the primary and becomes successful in the general election takes public office. 


The United States selects candidates through popular votes in the primary election system. Leila Halili says, “I think primary elections are obviously needed to narrow down the candidates in a party. With too many candidates it’s difficult for the voter to choose.”  Primary elections truly play an integral role in the political arena of democratic countries.