1) What is a caucus? A caucus is a private meeting of members of a political party -- sometimes caucuses are held in public places, but they can even be held in someone's home -- to select delegates for a nominating convention. In a caucus you are voting for a delegate to represent your choice but not the actual candidate, as you would in a primary.
2) So what is a primary?
It is an election held before the general election, where voters select the candidates who will run on each party's ticket. Primaries can be open, meaning any registered voter can vote in any party's primary, or closed, where the selection of a party's candidates in an election is limited to registered party members.
3) So what's the difference?
In a primary you fill out a ballot -- and you can even send it before the election date, as an absentee ballot. In a caucus, you vote by physically standing in an area designated for your delegate. After discussion and debate, an informal vote is taken to determine which delegates will be chosen.
Both caucuses and primaries help to narrow down the number of candidates in a political party. The Democrats started the presidential race with eight candidates and now they have five -- three of whom are considered "front runners." The Republicans have seven candidates.
4) So what is a delegate?
A delegate is a representative who bases his or her votes on the majority opinions of the people he or she represents.
5) And what's a nominating convention?
It's where each political party will finally confirm who they are nominating for President of the United States (and there will be plenty of speeches from the leaders of those two parties). The two major ones are the Democratic Convention and the Republican one. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Denver, Colo., from Aug. 25-28; the Republican National Convention will be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., from Sept. 1-4. There will also be conventions for other smaller parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party.
6) So how many delegates does it take to win the party's nomination?
Well, that depends on the party. To win on the Democratic side, you need 2,025 delegates. On the Republican side, you need 1,191. And many states have a policy where even if you don't win a primary or caucus, if a certain number of people vote for you, you get some delegates.
7) When and how does California vote?
California votes in a primary system on a day called Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), when 23 other states will also be voting. We used to vote in June, but many felt this wasn't fair because several candidates were no longer running by the time summer came around. There are 441 delegates on the Democratic side; and 173 on the Republican side in California.
There's a lot more to this election issue ... check around on the Web and watch the news with your parents to learn more about it. You can find out even more about the candidates in next week's Jewish Journal.
If you could vote in the election, whom would you pick and why? It's OK if your choice isn't the same as your mom's or dad's. Is your classroom holding a mock election? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org over the next months and let us know. We'll post the results here and see if kids really can pick the president.
Now Hear This
Get decked out in your V-Day outfits and declare your love of music. What better way to spend the weekend before the biggest love day of the year than at The SqueeGees' CD release party? Join Samantha Tobey and Roman Bluem in a free family concert to celebrate the launch of their first full-length album (ask mom or dad to show you what an album looks like).
Feb. 10 at 11:30 a.m., at Dragonfly Dulou, 2066 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-8448.
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