SFMN Explainers: primaries vs. caucuses

Welcome to the first in a series of Caplin News explainer videos, short pieces designed to help you understand important issues in the news.

This piece describes the complex way that Americans in different political parties choose their nominees for president. There are two main varieties: primaries and caucuses. Though the former is far more common, caucuses get a lot of airtime in part because Iowa, which has one, has gone first in the process since the 1970s. A software malfunction and other issues earlier this month, however, has put that status in jeopardy. 

Florida, like most states, has a primary. A primary is what most people think of when they visualize an election: people go to a polling place — or mail in an absentee ballot — to vote in secret and go home. In caucuses, voters meet publicly and choose their preferred candidate with a show of hands or by breaking out into different groups in the room.

In addition, Florida has what is considered a “closed” primary. That means only members of a particular party may participate in its election, and independents are unable to vote. However, registered voters may change their party affiliation until Feb. 18. The Florida primary will be held on March 17.

Stay tuned for more election videos.

Zoe is a senior, majoring in Journalism, expecting to graduate in Fall 2020. Born and raised Miami, Florida, she has grown up seeing different cultures just miles apart. With so many people from around the world, there are countless stories to be told.

Bianca Marcof is a journalism major at Florida International University. She is interested in multimedia reporting, but her favorite thing to do is write.

Kaylee Padron is a senior and transfer from UNC Chapel Hill. She is a journalism major and social media e-marketing minor. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching baseball.