Primary Cheat Sheet

Everything you need to know about the primaries

click to enlarge Democratic Primary Debate Dec. 19
Democratic Primary Debate Dec. 19

What are the primaries?

They are elections in which the parties pick their strongest candidate to run for president. For instance, if you are a Republican, you will pick from your field of candidates (Trump, Rubio, Carson and so on) to challenge the Democratic candidate.

When are the primaries?

In Ohio, Election Day is Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The overall election starts in February with Iowa, and each state votes at a different time. Some states don’t vote until the summer.

I heard about caucuses, what are those?

Ohio doesn’t have a caucus. You only need to worry about that if you live in a state like Iowa. Essentially, a caucus is a gathering of a bunch of citizens in a room, and they physically stand on each side of the room and debate which candidate to pick. All the sides of the room represent support for a single candidate. The physical number of people in on the sides of the room is counted at the end to decide to victor.

Who can vote?

Some states have closed primaries, meaning only official members of a political party can vote. Don’t worry about this, Ohioans — you live in an open primary state, meaning anyone can vote for any candidate.

At the polls, you will be asked which party you want to vote for and given a ballot with those respective options. If you are voting for a different party than you did last election, you’ll fill out a simple form declaring party affiliation. You can of course easily change this next election.

Your right to vote in a primary is not guaranteed in the law. This is why these rules vary and are dictated by parties. This also put some standard voting regulation up in the air. States like Ohio allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary so long as they turn 18 on or before the general election.

What are the parties?

The Democratic and Republican parties have been the meat and potatoes of American politics for centuries. You can look into the Green or Constitution Party, but the U.S. has been a two-party country since day one.

When do I have to be registered?

Ohioans have to be registered 30 days before primaries to participate. Let's set Valentine's Day as your deadline.


CityBeat will be profiling each of the candidates every week until the primaries in March.

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