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How Does the South Carolina Primary Work?


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 are South Carolina Ds and Rs on different days?

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.

How Do Republicans Select Delebates?

There are 24 Republican delegates at stake; the GOP reduced the delegate count from 47 because the state party held its date before 5 February. The primary is Saturday 19 January 2008; voters will elect delegates to the national GOP convention. 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.

How Do Democrats Select Delegates?

There are 54 Democratic delegates at stake in South Carolina; the primary is 26 January 2008. The National Democratic Party is not penalizing the state party because the GOP primary is earlier. Voters elect delegates who are allocated to any candidate who receives at least 15 percent of the primary vote in a district. The state convention is 3 May.

All voters in the primary and all participants in the precinct meetings and caucuses must swear or affirm that they are registered voters of this precinct, that they consider themselves to be a Democrat, and that have not participated in the 2008 Presidential nominating process of any other political party.

Who Participates? And How?

Any registered voter can participate in the New Hampshire primary, but she can vote in only one primary race, either the Republican or Democratic race.

How Did South Carolina Vote In Past Elections?

  • 2004 : Bush (R) 57.98% ; Kerry (D) 40.90%
  • 2000 : Bush (R) 56.83% ; Gore (D) 40.91% ; Nader (I) 1.47%
  • 1996 : Clinton (D) 43.85% ; Dole (R) 49.89% ; Perot (I) 5.60%
  • 1992 : Bush (R) 48.02% ; Clinton (D) 39.88% ; Perot (I) 11.55%
  • 1988 : Bush (R) 61.50% ; Dukakis (D) 37.58%
  • 1984 : Mondale (D) 35.57% ; Reagan (R) 63.55%
  • 1980 : Carter (D) 48.04% ; Reagan (R) 49.57% ; Anderson (I) 1.59%
  • 1976 : Carter (D) 56.17% ; Ford (R) 43.13
Source: US Election Atlas

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