What are Caucuses and Primaries, and how do they work?

A year before the primaries, Democratic Party politicians started announcing that they were running for the presidential nomination. At the start of the race 28 total politicians announced their candidacy, however many of them pulled out of the race prematurely due to lack of funding or support. This number was reduced to 11 candidates at the start of primary season.

The Caucuses are an informal party gathering, allowing voters to declare their support for their candidate. Candidacy support is usually measured by a headcount or insecure ballot. The first one of these is held in the state of Iowa (this year it was held on the 3rd of February). Usually many states hold Caucuses, but this year it was drastically reduced to 4 states: Iowa, Nevada, North Dakota and Wyoming. I can only assume the reduction was related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The state of Iowa is important in this regard, as it can help give a winning candidate a boost of momentum for their campaign, which can help them during the primaries (assuming they do not drop out of the race in the meantime). However – Iowa is not representative of the Democratic Party voters, the state’s demographic having a drastically higher percentage of white people than Party voters of all states.

The Primaries are similar yet different to the Caucuses (both being election-type gatherings) however the Primaries are less social, allowing voters to just go into a polling booth and vote for their desired candidate. The more votes a candidate gets, the more delegates they are assigned. Each state has a number of total delegates that can be assigned to candidates. A candidate must get at least 15% of the popular vote (the popular vote is the actual number of supporters’ votes, not delegates) to get any delegates at all – this was quite an obstacle this year because of the unusually large amount of candidates that persisted to the Primaries (eight), meaning that candidates found it more difficult to reach the 15% voter threshold.

If any one candidate reaches an unbeatable majority (>50%) of delegates, then they automatically become the Democratic party nominee for the presidential candidacy. However, if there is no clear majority then the delegates must run the process again – voting for ‘superdelegates’ who in turn vote for the party nominee.

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