Before any votes are cast in the general election between Republican and Democratic candidates, each party must decide whom to nominate to run for office. This process occurs at virtually every level of politics, from school council to president of the United States. Generally, these elections are publicly funded.

Function

Primary elections are organized by political parties to find a single candidate to support. Losers of primaries are expected to support the winner in the general election, though they sometimes end up running as independents or without a party affiliation.

Benefits

Political parties benefit by avoiding being forced to spread their resources in supporting multiple candidates. The public is given fewer candidates in the general election and is thus able to get to know the position of each nominee more deeply.

Types

Primaries occur for local, state and national positions. These may involve local political parties or those that extend nationwide, such as the Republicans and Democrats.

Considerations

It is usually up to the local authorities, such as city or county officials, as to how to fund primary elections. Political parties may be asked to provide financial assistance, though this is not the norm.

Public Funding

Often, primary elections are partially or fully funded by public entities such as county or city governments. Different jurisdictions have various methods of funding, ranging from filing fees to drawing from the general fund. Some areas of Texas, for example, allow up to 60 percent of the costs of a primary to be paid for from the general fund of the county.

Effects

Holding a primary may cause the general election to be less expensive because less public funding must be made available for a smaller selection of candidates. This provides a great incentive for public funding for primaries.