top of page
ELECTION FAQs (Adapted from the ivoter guide- Opportunities for Impact)
What is a Primary Election?
Your first election in the year is likely the primary election. The purpose of a primary is to narrow down the choices of candidates for the General Election—whether those candidates are running for president, state legislator, or other offices.
The Republican primary is a contest between Republican candidates that determines the Republican nominees for each office, and the Democratic Primary likewise determines the Democratic nominees. Some
states hold jungle or “all party” primaries, where candidates from all parties run against each other in the primary, and the top two or top four advance to the General Election, regardless of their party.
What are open versus closed primaries?
In states with closed primaries, you are required to register with a
political party before voting in that party’s primary. In states with open primaries, you do not have to register with a political party before voting in that party’s primary. Other states have partially open or partially closed primaries, and a few are open to unaffiliated voters but don’t allow voters from the opposite party to vote in the other party’s primary.
Does the presidential primary happen at the same time as the primary for other offices?
It depends on your state!
Some states hold their presidential primary on the same day as their state primary. The state primary is the
election for other offices besides the president . . . like U.S. Representative, Senator, governor, state
legislator, etc. Other states hold their presidential primary on a different day. (For example, Oklahoma holds
their presidential primary in March, but their state primary isn’t until June.)
The primary is unique because it allows you to find a candidate who more closely represents your
values. The quality of candidates who make it to the General Election are determined by voters in the primary.
What is a Caucus?
In a few states, a candidate is nominated by a caucus rather than a primary election. You may have heard of the Iowa Caucus—the most famous in the nation. A caucus is a meeting, run by a political party, where
attendees nominate a candidate for the General Election. In a handful of states, one party will hold a caucus while the other party will hold a primary election instead of a caucus. Make sure you know what the process is for your state so you won’t be caught by surprise!
What is a Runoff Election?
In non-presidential races, when no candidate meets the criteria for winning (either in a primary or a General
Election), a runoff election may take place between the top two candidates.
Some states don’t require runoff elections because they don’t require a candidate to obtain over 50% of the
vote to win. If they receive the most votes out of all other candidates (a plurality), regardless of percentage,
they win outright. States with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) also do not require a runoff for those elections.
See our page here for an explanation of Ranked Choice Voting.
What is a General Election?
I like to think of the General Election like the Super Bowl—the showdown between the final two football teams. In the General Election, the two candidates who were nominated in each party’s primaries plus any third-party or independent candidates will “face off” to determine who will take office. In states with jungle primaries, it is possible for voters to have two candidates from the same party in the general election.
Remember that many more candidates besides the presidential candidates will be on the General
Election ballot! The General Election always occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.
In 2024, the election will fall on November 5.
What is a Special Election?
Special elections are held to fill a vacancy in an office. Sometimes the governor will temporarily appoint
someone to fill the vacancy until a special election can take place. Many voters are unaware of special
elections, yet they present a unique opportunity to swing a seat in a different direction. Check out our
article on other reasons why these elections are so special.
What is a State Constitutional Amendment Election?
Some elections contain ballot measures (called propositions or issues) to amend the state constitution. Your
state constitution outlines the structure and limits of your state government, just like the U.S. Constitution
outlines the structure and limits of the federal government.
These elections can have long-lasting consequences, as we sadly saw in Ohio. If the proposed
amendment(s) pass, they are enshrined in the state constitution and can’t be changed by a law. They can only be reversed by another election.
What is a Local Election?
Local elections include city (municipal), county, and school board elections. Your local candidates may be on
the same ballot as the November General Election, or you might vote for them at a completely different time of year. For example, some cities in Texas conduct their local elections in May, while others elect their city
council members in November with all the other offices on the General Election ballot.
Don’t let the low turnout rates of these elections fool you. Your city council and school board members
can significantly influence your day-to-day life. Those positions also serve as a springboard to higher offices. A good or bad candidate can get their start at the local level.
Be sure to check with your Bonneville GOP to get a sample ballot before you go to the polls.
What are Bond Elections and Local Ballot Measures?
Local elections can have more than local candidates for city council and school board. They frequently include bond elections or local ballot measures. In a bond election, voters decide whether to allow their local government (city, county, or school board) to borrow money to finance a specific project.
Other local ballot measures may propose a change to the tax rate or some other decision, such as whether to allow alcohol to be sold in the county. Some cities have even held elections to determine whether they will be a sanctuary city for the unborn—a city that doesn’t allow abortions.
bottom of page