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August Primaries: By the Numbers

By Wendy Underhill  |  July 29, 2022

Most observers are looking at August’s primary elections to see which way the political winds are blowing. But policy wonks are watching to see what difference, if any, it makes how those primaries are run. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s coming, by the numbers.

1. For Hawaii, which is the one state that runs its state primaries on a Saturday (Aug. 13), and for Tennessee, the one state with its primary on a Thursday (Aug. 4).

2. For top-two primary. In Washington, which uses the system, all voters, regardless of party, get the same primary ballot. All candidates, regardless of party, are on the same ballot. At the end of counting, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. (Yes, that means two candidates from one party could face off against each other.)

3. The number of new legislative districts in the nation this decade, all in Wyoming. Rather than slice counties up, legislative leaders decided to simply expand the Senate by one district and the House by two.

3 (again). The number of states (Arizona, Vermont and Washington) that in August will elect some or all legislators from multimember districts; in total, 11 states do so. (West Virginia shifted to single-member districts for its House last year, while Senate districts may still be multimember.)

4. For top-four primary. Alaska’s use of the system, on Aug. 16, will be a national first. The plan works like a top-two primary, but four candidates advance to the general election. With four, it is more likely that Libertarians, Greens and other minor-party candidates will be on the general ballot—and less likely that either major party won’t have a candidate in the general. (Alaska’s general election will be run with ranked choice voting, but that’s another story.)

5. The number of states with August primaries affected by redistricting tussles. Original redistricting plans, either congressional or legislative, were struck down by courts in Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. In Ohio, delays based on court rulings meant the state ran two primaries—the original in May for federal and statewide offices and this extra one in August for legislative offices.  

6. The number of August primaries that are open, meaning voters of any party or no party at all can choose which party’s ballot they’d like to vote: Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin. Does this leave room for one party to meddle in another party’s business by encouraging crossover voting? Some say yes.

15. The number of states with primaries in August. See them all—plus the four in September—on NCSL’s State Primary Dates page.

Wendy Underhill directs NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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