How Elections Work

The Primaries

Your first chance to vote comes early in the year, when each political party goes through a process of selecting a nominee that will represent the party in the general election. Sometimes you will also have the chance to vote for a party nominee for Senate or the House. Even though a primary election may not seem as high profile, voting in a primary gives you that much more say in who will represent your issues and goals.  Be sure to check out the laws for your state, to learn how you can participate in your party’s primary.    

Primary Elections vs. Caucuses

Primary elections are not held the same way in every state, and there are actually a variety of ways in which the primary elections can work. There are two basic systems: the caucus system and the primary elections. Each system gives voters a chance to pick delegates to represent their choice at a party nominating convention. 

As presidential candidates (and sometimes downballot candidates for Congress and local offices) compete for your vote, they are also trying to win the support of delegates.  A few months after you vote in your primary, party delegates will gather at their party’s convention to represent you in selecting the presidential nominee.