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Community Matters, Government

Voting Matters: Primary Elections

What are primary elections?

Primary elections are elections that determine the candidates who run for a public office.

What is the difference between a direct and an indirect primary?

In a direct primary, voters vote directly for the candidates seeking to run for office.  In an indirect primary, voters are actually voting for delegates who then help choose the candidates at their party's convention.  United States Presidential Primaries are all indirect primaries.

What are delegates?

A delegate "is a representative chosen by a group to speak or act in its interests" (World Book Encyclopedia).

What is the difference between a binding and a non-binding primary?

In a binding primary, elected delegates are bound to vote for the candidate they pledged their support for, whereas in a non-binding primary, voters' wishes are considered advisory.  Missouri's Presidential Preference Primary is a non-binding primary.

What is the difference between open and closed primaries?

An open primary allows any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in a party's primary.  In a closed primary, only voters who have declared association with that party are allowed to vote in the party's primary.  Missouri has open primaries; therefore voters do not have to declare party affiliation.  However, they can only vote in one primary and will have to choose a party's primary at the polls.

Why do states have primaries at different times?

State laws and state political parties determine the scheduling of primaries in their respective states.  The Joplin Globe explains a major contention among some who believe that earlier primaries have undue influence on the eventual selection of nominees.

When is Missouri's Presidential Preference Primary?

Missouri holds its Presidential Preference Primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February, in this case February 7, 2012.  Fifteen candidates (four Democrat, ten Republican, and one Libertarian) filed to have their names appear on Missouri's ballot.  Find out where the major candidates stand on issues important to you on  You can learn the results of Missouri's Primary on the Secretary of State's website.

What is a caucus?

Caucuses, in this context, are meetings of voters at the regional level.  These meetings lead to the eventual selection of delegates at the state level.

Does Missouri have a caucus?

The Missouri Republican Party has decided to choose delegates for the Republican National Convention using caucuses.  These caucuses will take place around the state on March 17, 2012.  The caucus in Greene County will be held at the University Plaza at 10 a.m.

Voting Matters is a series of articles written by Library staff to provide information and resources during the 2012 political season.


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