Why are Republicans and Democrats holding primaries for the US presidential election?
VElections within the respective parties are not anchored in the American constitution, but they have developed over the years. Until 1820, for example, the congressmen each appointed a representative of their party who was to run as a candidate in the presidential election. Later it was party delegates at the district or state level who voted for a particular candidate.
Not until 1910 was the first experiment with primary codes in Oregon, which was then slowly expanded to other states. The aim was to reduce the influence of party bosses and backroom deals, to test the popularity of candidates and to give the internal party selection process greater democratic legitimacy. It was only after a chaotic Democratic party conference in 1968, at which Hubert Humphrey was nominated even though he had not won a primary, that primary elections became binding for the delegates who represented their respective states at the national nomination party conferences.
What is the difference between caucus and primary?
The individual US states decide for themselves how the voters decide on the candidates for the presidential election. Most states do this by primary – a secret ballot. A few states have chosen the caucus system.
In Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa, party meetings take place at the district level – with a show of hands or by dividing the participants into different groups depending on the candidate.
Only those who are registered voters of the respective party can participate in a caucus. There are different systems for the primaries. In some states only registered voters can vote, others are open to all citizens of a state. A caucus is organized and paid for by the relevant party, while primaries are held by the state.
How are the votes of the states weighted?
The number of voting delegates that each state can send to the national nomination party congress is usually dependent on its population. For the Democrats, the delegate votes are distributed proportionally according to the election result. However, the states are allowed to set up a hurdle of up to 15 percent, above which votes are only credited to a candidate.
For Republicans, this hurdle can be up to 20 percent. However, there are still some cases where the leading candidate receives all delegate votes. However, many states have a mixed form: the votes are largely given according to proportionality, but there are mechanisms that give the winner bonus votes.
What about the super delegates?
Superdelegates are participants at the nomination congresses who are entitled to vote who were not sent via the pre-election system and who are therefore not bound in their voting. The Democrats are former and active party leaders, including former presidents, vice-presidents, party leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as active governors, congressmen or elected representatives of the party.
These delegates can tip the scales in the event of a stalemate or a tight election result, after all, the Democrats make up around a sixth of the delegates. With the Republicans, the “undetermined delegates” play a less important role and only make up about a tenth of the electorate at the nomination convention.
As a rule, each state sends three high party officials as super delegates. In view of the volatile situation among the Republicans, this time the undefined delegates could play an important role at the nomination party conference.
When are the primaries decided?
This year, the primaries begin on February 1 with the caucus in Iowa and end with the Democratic vote on June 14 in DC. Republicans end the primaries on June 7 with primaries in five states, including weighty California.
Traditionally, the votes in the first three states, i.e. Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, play an important role because they can trigger an unexpected dynamic – for example, Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa victory against Hillary Clinton was very important to him in in the eyes of donors and supporters as a possible alternative. The most important milestone after that is Super Tuesday on March 1st, when 15 states will vote. Convincing victories on Super Tuesday often resulted in candidates being nominated.
This year, however, it is quite possible that the race, especially with the Republicans, will remain open until the end and may not be decided until the nomination party conference (July 18-21). The Democratic nomination convention will take place shortly thereafter, July 25-28.
Not everyone is happy with the system. What is being criticized?
Iowa (February 1) and New Hampshire (February 9) have special roles in the election calendar as early pre-election states. The per capita allocation quota that the citizens of both states experience through the politicians is many times higher than in later area code states. Criticism is mainly inflamed by the fact that Iowa in particular is not representative of the rest of the USA. It is mostly rural, the population is mostly white and more affluent than other regions. Iowa happened to be the first state on the Democratic election calendar in the 1972 primary. In the meantime, this prelude has become a tradition in both parties that the state tenaciously defends.
In Iowa, the state constitution even wrote that the area code should be held at least eight days before the other states. This poses a significant problem for candidates with limited financial means. Should they invest a lot of money in the fight for Iowa, even though only about one percent of the delegate votes are given there? Or should they plan for the long term and thus run the risk that their campaign will quickly lose momentum after poor results in the early states?
What role do money and the super PACs play in the primaries?
The socialist Bernie Sanders contests his election campaign for the Democratic nomination mainly with the accusation that America’s politics were bought with big money. His campaign is the best proof that large donors do not make elections. He’s neck and neck with Hillary Clinton ahead of the primaries, despite the fact that he’s raised far fewer funds. The Republican Jeb Bush raised by far the most money. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is far behind in the polls.
However, it is clear that candidates need more and more money to campaign successfully. US campaign funding laws are a patchwork of regulation and deregulation. Individuals are limited to a maximum of $ 2,700 to donate to a campaign. At the same time, according to a constitutional court ruling from 2010 (“Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission”), non-profit organizations, companies, trade unions or associations can spend as much money on election campaigns as they want – although donations may not go directly to the candidates.
Since this ruling, independent action committees, the so-called Super-PACs, have grown in importance. They are allowed to advertise a candidate, but are not allowed to work directly with the campaign team. According to another ruling, Super-PACs are now also allowed to accept unrestricted donations from individuals. For some candidates, this leads to increasing dependency on some major donors. And because of that, more and more Americans feel that politics can be bought.
In which states do you vote and when?
February 1: Iowa (first area code)
9. Februar: New Hampshire
February 20: Nevada (Democrats); South Carolina (Republican)
February 23: Nevada (Republicans)
February 27: South Carolina (Democrats)
1. März (Super Tuesday): Alabama, Alaska (Republikaner), American Samoa; Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
March 5: Kansas, Kentucky (Republicans), Louisiana, Maine (Republicans), Nebraska (Democrats)
March 6: Maine (Democrats), Puerto Rico (Republicans)
March 8: Hawaii (Republicans), Idaho (Republicans), Michigan, Mississippi
March 12: DC (Republicans), Northern Marianas Islands (Democrats)
15. März: Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Northern Marianas Islands (Republikaner), North Carolina, Ohio
March 19: Virgin Islands (Republicans)
March 22: Arizona, Idaho (Democrats), Utah
March 26: Alaska (Democrats), Hawaii (Democrats), Washington (Democrats)
5. April: Wisconsin
9. April: Wyoming
19. April: New York
26. April: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
May 3: Indiana
7. Mai: Guam
10. Mai: Nebraska (Republikaner), West Virginia
17. Mai: Kentucky (Demokraten), Oregon
24. Mai: Washington (Republikaner)
June 4: Virgin Islands (Democrats)
June 5: Puerto Rico (Democrats)
7. Juni: Kalifornien, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexiko North Dakota, South Dakota
June 14th: DC (Demokrats)
July 18 to July 21: Republican Nomination Convention
July 25th to July 28th: Democrats Nomination Congress