Presidential Primaries

The presidential primary elections are a crucial stage in determining who will become our next president. It’s important to cast your vote in these elections, but sometimes they can be so complicated that it feels like you need to be an expert in political science to fully understand the process. To make it as simple as possible, we’re breaking it down into frequently asked questions specific to the Virginia primaries.


When is it? March 1, 2016. This day is also known as “Super Tuesday.”

What is Super Tuesday? This is the day when the most delegates to the party conventions are up for grabs at one time. It is considered a test of a candidate’s electability.

What are the primaries? The presidential primaries are one of several methods used to narrow the field of candidates for president down to one from each political party.

Why do we have a primary? The primary system began during the Progressive Era in the early 1900s in an effort to weed out corruption by giving control of the election process back to the voters.

How does it work? By voting in the primary, you actually elect delegates who are bound to vote for specific candidates at the party conventions. Both parties allocate delegates proportionally, but they have a different number of delegates.

  • Democrats: The Democratic National Convention this year will be made up of a total of 4,051 delegates. In order to win the nomination, a candidate must win 2,383 delegates. Virginia has 110 Democratic delegates.
  • Republicans: The Republican National Convention will comprise 2,470 delegates, which means the winning candidate requires 1,236 delegates. Virginia has 49 Republican delegates.

Who can vote? In Virginia we have an open primary. This means that you do not have to be registered with a party in order to vote in the primary election. You can only vote in one primary, Democratic or Republican, not both.

Who is on the ballot?

Questions about voting? See our Voting Toolkit Blog

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