POLI 360 – Lecture 12
How Parties Choose Candidates
o The move towards primary nominations of candidates was a Progressive Era
reform to reduce party bosses’ and other party elites’ influences.
o All states now use primaries to decide nominees for at least some statewide
o Primaries are the only way to choose party nominations in 38 states.
Types of Primaries
o Closed Primary
This primary requires a stable record of the voter’s party affiliation before
one can vote in a primary.
One can only vote in the primary with which he/she is affiliated.
These primaries are used in 28 states.
There are two types of closed primaries:
Fully-Closed Primaries: voters must register with a party prior to
Election Day in order to vote in the party’s primary. These
primaries indicate strong party organizations.
Semi-Closed Primaries: Voters still must state a party affiliation
and can only vote in the primary of the parties they are affiliated
with, respectively. Voters can change their affiliation, however, at
o Open Primary This primary allows people to vote in either party’s primary without
announcing a party affiliation.
21 states use this type of primary, including South Carolina.
There are two types of open primaries:
Semi-open Primaries: Voters can ask for either party’s ballot at
the polls, but pollsters keep no standing records of the voters’ party
Fully Open Primaries: Voters receive consolidated ballots (with
both parties’ primaries on it), or voters receive ballots for every
party and the people choose the party primary they want to vote in
in private. People, however, can only vote in one party’s primary.
o Blanket Primary
This primary allows voters to vote in more than one party’s primary.
Citizens receive a ballot that lists the primary candidates for each party in
each office; this allows voters to pick a Democrat for one office and a
Republican for another office.
This primary was used in California, an anti-partisan state, but it was
deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because the parties have
o Top Two Primary
This primary was created by California in response to the Supreme
Court’s ruling on blanket primaries. All candidates appear on the same ballot. The top two vote-receivers,
regardless of party affiliation, continue on to the general election.
o Unified/Unitary Primary
Used in Louisiana since 1975, all candidates are listed on the same ballot,
regardless of party affiliation.
If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, then that candidate