Why is Super Tuesday so Super?
By Julia Parenteau on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
If you’ve been following the national election news, you’ve likely heard “Super Tuesday” mentioned. And maybe you’ve been wondering what makes that day so super?
Super Tuesday is the day in a presidential election year when the most states hold their primary elections or party caucuses – the elections that help determine which candidate will get the official party nomination from the Democrats and Republicans (and some minor parties as well, such as the Greens). Because so many states – with widely varying demographics, geographies, and socio-economics – have elections on the same day, Super Tuesday is considered to be an early and important test of a presidential candidate’s overall electability.
Typically this Tuesday falls in February or March – in 2016, it is next week on March 1. States that will participate in Super Tuesday 2016 include: Alabama, Alaska (Republican caucuses), Arkansas, Colorado (caucuses), Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota (caucuses), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming (Republican caucuses).
In our two-party system, the Democrats and Republicans each hold a national convention at which delegates cast votes to nominate the official, party-approved presidential candidate. Thus, in primary elections and caucuses, presidential candidates actually win delegates who then go vote for them at the party’s national convention.
Caucus vs Primary Election
A primary election functions very similarly to the general election in November – voters go to the polls, get a ballot, and choose their candidates. However, in most states, voters have to choose whether they want a Republican or Democratic ballot, and then they vote only on the candidates in that party. Votes are tabulated and party delegates are distributed to candidates. The Democratic Party distributes delegates proportionately to the votes cast; the Republican Party allows a “winner take all” option, in which the majority vote-getter receives all the delegates available in the state. Each state is allowed to decide whether to implement that all-or-nothing system.
A caucus, on the other hand, is more complex and community-based. In Minnesota, these community meetings are called “precinct caucuses,” and are technically private meetings of political party members.
You do not need to be registered to vote to caucus in Minnesota, but you do need to live in the political district and be eligible to vote by Election Day (November 8, 2016). And yes, that means a 17-year-old can caucus in March if he/she will be 18 by November 8!
In some states, you must be registered with a political party to caucus with that party. But Minnesota does not have official party registration, so all you have to do is attest you voted for the party nominee in past elections, intend to vote for the nominee in the future, and/or generally agree with the party principles.
Caucuses are held at a specific time and place, rather than via all-day voting like a primary or general election. Eligible caucus-goers will cast ballots for their preferred candidate, but unlike a primary, the events are not just limited to voting. Attendees may give speeches, advocate for their candidates and try to persuade others to change their votes. There may be discussions of political issues beyond the election at hand, and precinct caucuses can debate and pass resolutions. Further, the caucus elects specific delegates to go on to future events (county, state and national conventions) and vote on nominees for Congress and other offices.
Democrats in Minnesota will assign 77 delegates (out of 4,763 nationally) and Republicans will assign 38 (out of 2,472 nationally). Both parties in Minnesota have opted for a secret ballot vote, rather than a public voice vote used by Democrats in Iowa and some other states.
Ready to Caucus?
Find your Democratic or Republican precinct location by entering your address here.
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Civic Participation: Bonus Round
In Minnesota, because we are above average, we have both a caucus and a primary election. The primaries will be held on August 9, 2016. If you live in a city that holds primary elections for its council races, or in a state legislative district that has a contested race between two members of the same party, you can cast a vote in the primary election too!
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