Primaries and caucuses are two ways that people help states and political parties choose presidential nominees.

Presidential primaries

Most states hold primaries 6-9 months before a presidential election. Primary voters choose their preferred candidate anonymously by casting secret ballots. The state where the primary is held takes the results of the vote into account to award delegates to the winners.


Several states hold caucuses in the months leading up to a presidential election. Caucuses are meetings run by political parties that are held at the county, district, or precinct level. Some caucuses choose candidates by secret ballot. Others require participants to divide themselves into groups according to the candidate they support. Undecided participants form their own group. Each candidate’s group gives speeches and tries to get others to join their group. At the end, the number of delegates given to each candidate is based on the number of caucus votes they received.

Types of primaries and caucuses

Depending on state and political party rules, primaries and caucuses can be "open," "closed," or some hybrid of the two. During an open primary or caucus, voters do not have to be registered with a political party to take part in its primary or caucus. During a closed primary or caucus, only voters registered with that party can take part and vote."Semi-open" and "semi-closed" primaries and caucuses are variations of the two main types. Each state has its own way of operating its primaries and caucuses.

States and political parties use different methods for deciding how many delegates they will award to each candidate.Delegates go on to represent their state at national party conventions. 

U.S. Calendar

Monday, January 15: Iowa GOP Caucuses

Tuesday, January 23: New Hampshire primary

February 6: Nevada primary

February 8: Nevada and Virgin Island caucuses

February 24: South Carolina primary

February 27: Michigan primary

March 2: Idaho caucus, Michigan state convention, Missouri GOP caucus

March 3: Washinton, D.C. primary

March 4: North Dakota caucus

March 5: Super Tuesday, with GOP primary voting in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virgina plus GOP caucuses in American Samoa and Utah.

March 12: Georgia, Mississippi and Washington primaries, and Hawaii caucus

March 15: Northern Mariana Islands territorial caucus

March 16: Guam territorial convention

March 19: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio primaries

March 23: Louisiana primary

April 2: Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode island, Wisconsin primaries

April 20: Wyoming state convention

April 21: Puerto Rico primary

April 23: Pennsylvania primary

May 4: Missouri state convention

May 7: Indiana primary

May 14: Maryland, Nebraska, West Virginia primaries

May 21: Kentucky, Oregon primaries

May 25: Oregon state convention

June 4: Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota primaries

June 15-18: Republican National Convention, Milwaukee

August 19-22: Democratic National Convention, Chicago

September 16: First scheduled presidential debate. Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas

September 25: Vice presidential debate. Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania

October 1: Second scheduled presidential debate. Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va

October 9: Third scheduled presidential debate. University of Utah in Salt Lake city

November 5: Election Day


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