The NCSL Blog


By Ben Williams

While Super Tuesday was the largest single day of the presidential primary season, it was far from its conclusion.

n this June 7, 2016 file photo, Dr. Herbert Wilson and his wife Lilian, of Bismarck, N.D., both supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, participate in the Democratic/NPL Party caucus for North Dakota. The meltdown of Iowa's closely watched caucuses immediately raised questions about other states who use the caucus system to indicate presidential preference. That includes North Dakota. But Democrats here say their March 10, 2020, caucus don't use an app like the one blamed for Iowa's problems; instead, citizens indicate their preference on old-school paper ballots that get tabulated by a third-party vendor. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP File)As of this blog’s publication, 64% of states have yet to hold their presidential primaries and 90% of states have yet to hold their primaries for all other offices. The next primaries will be held in six states today, March 10: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. With the exception of Mississippi, these primaries will solely be for president.

In Mississippi, tomorrow will be the primary for president and other federal offices. (Mississippi elects its statewide officers and legislators during odd-numbered years; NCSL has a webpage on which legislative seats are up for election in 2020.)

In both the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, a plurality of votes is sufficient to win the election; there are no runoffs if all candidates fail to secure 50% of the vote. However, if no candidate meets the 50% threshold in primaries for its U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives seats, the Magnolia State will hold a runoff on March 31.

Unlike its peers, North Dakota’s nominating process will not be run by state and local election officials. Instead, it will be run by the party itself.

Known as a “firehouse primary” or “firehouse caucus,” these party-run primaries (as you’d guess from the name) are run entirely by party officials. Democrats in the state can vote at any of the party’s 14 polling locations throughout the state, though none of the locations will be actual firehouses.

The state party also offered voters a “vote by mail” option, though the window for requesting a ballot from the party has now closed. This is the first time North Dakota has not used a traditional caucus to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention. The North Dakota Republican Party, meanwhile, will be holding caucuses today, as well. Those interested in attending the caucuses can find more information on locations here.

Most political observers are focused on who’s up and who’s down in this year’s primaries. NCSL, on the other hand, is following the many ways that party nominations can be determined—decisions made by the states, not the national parties. If you like what you see here, check the StateVote track in the NCSL Blog for previous posts (and future ones).

Ben Williams is a policy specialist in NCSL's Elections and Redistricting Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.