What you need to know about caucuses and primary elections ahead of Super Tuesday

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Every four years, states across the country hold either a caucus or a primary election. This is done to narrow down candidates in the country’s two major political parties.

Those chosen are included on the ballot in the national presidential election. ABC4’s Mercy Owusu spoke to senior political correspondent Glen Mills to help break down the differences between a caucus and a primary election.

Mills explained that a caucus is a gathering of local neighborhoods run by the state parties.

“The Utah Democratic party and the Utah Republican party would run the caucus system. People from local neighborhoods will gather at a school, for example, and they’ll begin to talk about the candidate and then they will cast their vote there. It can be on a paper ballot or other means of voting.”

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Caucuses can be an opportunity to mingle with people in your neighborhood and get a feel for what people are thinking about the different candidates.

The Utah Democratic and Republican parties had some struggles during the 2016 caucus. Mills said there were long lines and a shortage of ballots causing a lot of chaos. These problems were a result of a large turnout and a shortage of staff.

Due to problems that arose from the caucus four years ago, Mills said the state legislature met with chairmen from both parties in an effort to change the presidential caucus to a primary election in the last couple of years.

Primaries are more efficient and convenient, according to Mills. There are two types of presidential primaries–the open primary and the closed primary.

A primary election is run by the state and county clerks instead of a political party. The primary election is mostly done by mail-in ballots which Mills says gives voters an opportunity to research candidates before sending back their filled-out ballots. There is also the option for people to go to designated polling stations to cast their vote if they miss the deadlines to mail in their ballots.

Related: Super Tuesday voting deadlines

The Utah Republican party has a closed primary while the Utah Democratic Party has an open primary election.

In a closed primary election, participants have to be a registered member of the of that specific party to be able to vote. With an open primary election, anyone from any political party can participate.

Super Tuesday is on March 3rd. If you haven’t already, you can register to vote at https://vote.utah.gov/.

Click here for important voting dates and deadlines.


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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...

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