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Why Aren't All the Presidential Primaries in the US on the Same Day?

The Constitution mandates a single day for presidential elections, not primaries.
The White House, home of the president of the United States.
While a single day is mandated for Presidential elections, no such designation is made for primary elections, partly due to logistics.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2014
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There actually is no legal reason why presidential primaries couldn't be held on the same day. There are, however, any number of political and logistical reasons why such a move would be counter-intuitive for both major political parties. While the Constitution does specifically mandate a single day for presidential elections, there are no federal provisions for individual presidential primaries. States have the right to determine their own dates for presidential primaries, or even the right to hold caucuses or other political party conventions instead.

One reason holding all presidential primaries on a single day would be problematic is logistics. Candidates from both parties would not be able to campaign in all fifty states effectively before having their political futures determined on a single day. If all of the states, large or small, held presidential primaries on the same day, candidates might concentrate their efforts on only the states with the highest populations or the most political influence. Voters in smaller states would be asked to select a candidate with little to no chance to examine his or her stance on the issues.

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There is also political momentum to consider. When smaller states hold early presidential primaries, the results of the voting can either improve or hamper a candidate's overall momentum towards his or her party's nomination. Staggering the presidential primaries over several months allows candidates to gauge their relative popularity and adjust their focus on future campaigning efforts. Candidates can also determine whether to continue pursuing their party's nomination or drop out of the race entirely. If all presidential primaries were held on the same day, some promising candidates would not have the opportunity to build up more support. Only the front-runners at the time of the primaries would be likely to receive their party's nomination.

The Republican and Democratic parties of each state have the right to choose the day of their state's presidential primary. Many states believe it is to their advantage to hold presidential primaries early, since late primaries often have little bearing on the eventual outcome. Several states do hold presidential primaries on the same day, usually with the designation "Super Tuesday." This decision to hold simultaneous primaries is often the result of consultations between the national political parties and individual state party representatives.

While it would be technically possible to hold presidential primaries on the same day, it would not make much sense politically for either party. The presidential primaries are not the same as presidential elections. Primaries generally guide political parties towards a nomination of their most electable or popular candidate. Conceivably, an early front-runner could become less popular as the campaign season wears on, so a staggered system of presidential primaries can reveal the candidate with the most momentum and staying power at the end, not necessarily at the start of the race.

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Discuss this Article

anon260849
Post 4

So glad to know I'm not the only one who feels like the decision for the Republican nominee has pretty much been determined before the rest of us (myself in PA) have had the opportunity to vote.

The media has so much "pull" in who gets nominated with all of their speculations. I guess when I go to the poles I'll still be able to vote for other offices to be filled but the Republican candidate for president has pretty much been chosen for me. I have no say at this point.

anon238490
Post 3

I completely agree with the other posters. Having primaries on different days undermines the democratic process. It gives certain states unfair advantages, and it denies citizens in some states from having the full range of candidates to choose from.

anon56701
Post 2

I agree with you completely anon9886. Even if they were lumped into the same few days we would get a better outcome.

I am a Republican in PA and got aggravated with the fact that my candidate was out before I could vote. I would also like to see open primaries where everyone could vote for the best choice, not just your party. Our government has lost sight of the fact that they are working for us, not their own interests. --Jason in PA

anon9886
Post 1

While an argument can be made for exposure, momentum and logistics, those pale in comparison with the value of every vote. I will not be able to vote until May and being a Republican the decision has already been made. The other thing that was left out of your argument is the role that the media plays. Everyone can see that there is unequal coverage, even during debates. I believe that fairness and that the voice of every citizen is heard is far more important than the reasons of convenience made in this article.

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