Forms of Presidential Primaries and the Effects of Front-Loading


Primary election is a political process conducted in the United States of America and most of other European countries. In primary elections, a political party is eligible to nominate a person to run for the general election. As such, in this election the voters vote to elect their candidate for the next general election. The history of primary elections started in the United States. The government pays for the whole election process during primaries.

This is unlike in other countries such as in Europe. However, most of European countries have closed primaries. Though this is so, open primaries like in the United States are conducted in countries such as France and Italy. On the issue of nominating party candidates, there exist other methods. They include meetings and conventions. However, there are various types of primaries. This is dependent on the country involved (Majorie, 2007).

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Types of Primaries

These types are classified as both closed and open primaries. However, the above classification of primaries happens by those states where primary elections are done by the party themselves and not organized by the administration. The party members alone only conduct closed primaries, like hinted in the beginning of this paper. This is strictly set that way- that in the election of the party candidate for the next election, only the registered party members can participate in the election procedures.

However, this is different with open primary where all voters in the country can take part in the election of the party candidate. Open primaries are not limited to party members; the party though not making it an obligation to the voters, may ask the voters to contribute to the party to finance the party’s activities including the primaries themselves.

Though only the two types of primaries can b identified in most countries, in the United States other forms may be identified. These countries include open primaries, closed primaries semi-closed, semi-closed and run-off. As such, in the United States, closed primaries will have a slight different meaning from closed primaries in other countries. Only registered parties take part in elections in the United States. Because of this therefore, the people who are not entirely associated with any political party refer themselves as non-partisan.

On the other hand, in semi-closed primaries, the entire non –partisans are allowed to vote alongside the registered members. It is worth noting however that this is dependent on the state involved. In the United States, open primary involves all eligible voters voting in any party election in spite of of their party’s membership.

With the semi –open type of primaries, the voter voting to elect the part y presidential candidate is not required to declare publicly the political party they are going to vote. This type of primaries is different from open primaries in that each voter is provided with one ballot .as such, each party’s election officials record all the votes cast by each voter. In this type of primary election, the voters use Specific party ballot.

The structure and the mechanism of this type of primary however are dependent on the state involved. Run-off refers to a primary election where two candidates are allowed to proceed to the general election. This is regardless of the party affiliation of the top two candidates. Furthermore, there is no restriction on the party.

Front-Loading and Its Effects on the Primaries

The effects of front loading in primaries are evident. Front loading here means a scenario where states seek for earlier primaries to gun for greater influence in the nomination. This is aimed at showing the whole nation that a particular candidate is popular. The above notion lies in the idea that if the state starts earlier nomination, the nation psychologically will tend to associate the nominated candidate with popularity (Majorie, 2007).

The effect of front loading in the primaries is that candidates can tend to ignore all the primaries that occur after the initial nomination in the state is done. As result of this, the primaries calendar in most countries including France and USA have been compressed to a short time limit involving a few months span.

The problem of compressing the primary election is that many primaries may find themselves being conducted on the same day thus forcing the candidate to choose on which state to be at a particular time. This is because a candidate cannot be everywhere at the same time, this problem is solved by advertising.


Majorie, H. (2007). Political Parties in America. New York: Pearson Longman.


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