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Primary election
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Primary election

A primary election is one in which a political party selects a candidate for a later election by all registered voters in that jurisdiction. Primaries are sometimes open only to registered members of that party, and sometimes open to all voters. In open primaries, voters must typically choose only one primary to participate in that election cycle.

Primaries can also be used in nonpartisan elections to reduce the set of candidates that go on to the general election. (In the U.S. many city, county and school board elections are nonpartisan.) Generally twice as many candidate pass the primary as can win in the general election, so a single seat election primary would allow the top two primary candidates to participate in the general election following.

In elections using voting systems where strategic nomination is a concern, primaries can be very important in preventing "clone" candidates that split their constituency's vote because of their similarities. Primaries allow political parties to select and unite behind one candidate.

In the United States, the small state of New Hampshire draws national attention every four years because it has the first U.S. presidential primary. (In 2004, the Washington, DC primary had the distinction of being the first in the nation; however, it was only binding for the Green Party. The Democratic Party's vote in the primary was non-binding, and only 4 of the 9 Democratic candidates were listed on ballots.)

Other ways that parties may select their candidates include caucuses and conventionss.