Presidential Primaries

primary

primary, in the United States, a preliminary election in which the candidate of a party is nominated directly by the voters. The establishment of the primary system resulted from the demand to eliminate the abuses of nomination by party conventions, which were often open to manipulation by party bosses. The primary was first used in local elections—as early as 1842 in Crawford co., Pa. The Wisconsin legislature established the first primary for the nomination of statewide candidates in 1903. In 1917 all but four states had enacted primary laws, which varied widely from state to state in scope and detail of administration. Many states extend the primary principle to the presidential level, providing for an election in which voters register their preference among presidential candidates and select state delegates to nominating conventions of the national parties. A primary may be nonpartisan, i.e., the candidates are not listed by party affiliation (usually in local and judicial elections); open, i.e., any registered voter may vote for a candidate for office from any party; or closed, i.e., only registered party members may vote for the party's slate of candidates. In a blanket primary the candidates of all the parties are listed on a single ballot; nonbinding primaries, sometimes called "beauty contests," do not require the party to adhere to the result of the primary in choosing its candidates. In states and localities where one party is dominant the primary, rather than the regular election, is crucial in the selection of officeholders. Critics of the primary system point to the great cost of primary campaigns and to the often unrepresentative nature of the comparatively few voters who thus select the party candidates.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook
James W. Davis.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries
John G. Geer.
Greenwood Press, 1989
In Pursuit of the White House 2000: How We Choose Our Presidential Nominees
William G. Mayer.
Seven Bridges Press, 2000
Communication in the Presidential Primaries: Candidates and the Media, 1912-2000
Kathleen E. Kendall.
Praeger, 2000
Selecting Presidential Nominees: The Evolution of the Current System and Prospects for Reform
Piroth, Scott.
Social Education, Vol. 64, No. 5, September 2000
The New Hampshire Primary and the American Electoral Process
Niall A. Palmer.
Westview Press, 1997
Voting at the Political Fault Line: California's Experiment with the Blanket Primary
Bruce E. Cain; Elisabeth Gerber R.
University of California Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Sixteen "Strategies and Rules: Lessons from the 2000 Presidential Primary"
The American Direct Primary: Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the North
Alan Ware.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "The Direct Primary and the Presidential Primary" begins on p. 248
Do Primary Voters Draw from a Stacked Deck? Presidential Nominations in an Era of Candidate-Centered Campaigns
Steger, Wayne P.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 4, December 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Money Primary: What Influences the Outcome of Pre-Primary Presidential Nomination Fundraising? (Articles)
Adkins, Randall E.; Dowdle, Andrew J.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2, June 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Paradoxes of the American Presidency
Thomas E. Cronin; Michael A. Genovese.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of presidential primaries begins on p. 42
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