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How Does the Florida Primary Work?

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Presidential election primaries and caucuses are two different methods that political parties use to let party members (voters) select the presidential nominee. How do primaries work and why did Democrats ignore Florida?

What Is A Primary?

A nominating primary election allows voters to select candidates for a subsequent election. "Primaries" are common in the United States and are conducted by the government on behalf of the Democratic and Republican political parties. Voters can vote in only one primary; they must declare a party affiliation. However, there are no monetary dues to pay to join and the voter can switch parties in the next primary if she so desires.

Minor parties in the United States select nominees in a less formalized and public manner.

Who Participates? And How?

Any registered member of a political party can participate in the Florida primary, but she can vote in only one primary race, either the Republican or Democratic race. Voters must register a party preference 30 days before the primary.

On 21 May 2007, Florida moved its presidential primary (CS/HB 537) from the second Tuesday in March (11 March 2008) to the last Tuesday in January (Tuesday 29 January 2008). Both national parties had indicated the state would be penalized for scheduling its primary before 5 February 2008.

How Do Democrats Select Delegates?

There are no Democratic delegates at stake in Florida; there would have been 185. The National Democratic Party has penalized the state because the state legislature scheduled the primary earlier than 5 February 2008.

How Do Republicans Select Delebates?

The primary is Tuesday 29 January 2008; voters will elect national convention delegates and alternates. National Convention delegates are bound only on the first ballot. If the candidate receives 30% or more of the vote on the first ballot, the delegates are also bound for the second ballot; otherwise, the delegates are released.

Because the primary is before 5 February 2008, the GOP has penalized the state; the number of delegates has been reduced from 114 to 57.

2008 Results

The contest in Florida is only on the Republican side because the Democratic National Party nullified all Michigan delegates due to early primary scheduling.

How Did Florida Vote In Past Elections?

  • 2004 : Bush (R) 52.1% ; Kerry (D) 47.1%
  • 2000 : Bush (R) 48.8% ; Gore (D) 48.8% ; Nader (I) 1.63%
  • 1996 : Clinton (D) 48.0% ; Dole (R) 42.3% ; Perot (I) 9.12%
  • 1992 : Bush (R) 40.9% ; Clinton (D) 39.0% ; Perot (I) 19.82%
  • 1988 : Bush (R) 60.9% ; Dukakis (D) 38.5%
  • 1984 : Mondale (D) 34.7% ; Reagan (R) 65.3%
  • 1980 : Carter (D) 38.5% ; Reagan (R) 55.5% ; Anderson (I) 5.14%
  • 1976 : Carter (D) 51.9% ; Ford (R) 46.6%
Source: CNN

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