• A primary election is generally the first of two elections in the process of selecting candidates to fill public offices. The general election is where the winning candidate is chosen to fill the office.

    How a Primary Election Works

    Voters select their party's nominee for office among declared candidates in the primary election. The winning nominees then run against each other in the general election, with the candidate with the most votes winning.

    Types of Primary Elections

    The primary election process varies by state. Some states only allow party members to vote for that party's candidates. Other states allow crossover voting, which means people can vote for any candidate in any party.


    Primary elections got their start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when people wanted to weaken strong party organizations, according to ACE Encyclopedia, a website about the electoral process.

    Presidential Primaries

    The most important primary elections are held every four years when delegates are chosen to attend the parties' presidential nomination conventions. Party nominees for president of the United States are chosen to run in the general election.

    Eligibility to Vote in Primaries

    Only registered voters with a declared party affiliation can vote in most elections, though some states allow voters who are independent to vote. This depends on state law.


    Definition of a primary election

    ACE Encyclopedia


    Encyclopedia Britannica

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