Engaging Methuen Readers

Making sense of Super Tuesday

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Illustration by R. A. Di Ieso / Vocativ

Illustration by R. A. Di Ieso / Vocativ

We’ve watched the debates, town hall meetings, and the stump speeches. If you’re a particular brand of political enthusiast, you’ve made trips to New Hampshire before their primary to see the candidates in person. Cars, front yards, and social media have been plastered with declarations of support for favorite candidates. And now Massachusetts residents finally get to have their say where it really matters: at the ballot box.


Why “Super Tuesday”?
On Tuesday, March 1, Massachusetts will be one of 12 states and one U.S. territory taking part in the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. Ten states will hold primaries for both political parties; Alaska will hold a Republican caucus; and American Samoa will hold a Democrat caucus.

Early states like Iowa and New Hampshire are important because they offer early insight into where voters’ interests are, and can begin to winnow out less popular candidates in crowded fields. On Super Tuesday, we begin to get a real indication of who each party’s nominee will be.

What is the SEC Primary?
One term you may have been hearing quite a bit in the lead-up to Super Tuesday is “SEC primary.” This refers to Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee, all of which have teams that compete in the Southeastern Conference, which gave rise to the name.

Who are delegates?
Not only do the primaries offer yet more fodder for pundits and water cooler chat, but they determine the number of delegates that candidates will have in their favor at the national nominating conventions for each party later this year. Republicans have 2472 delegates this year, and Democrats have 4764.

Typically, delegates are people who are involved in politics in their states, as volunteers or local party chairs. Superdelegates are not committed to vote for a specific candidate, and are typically elected officials. Their votes can be pledged regardless of primary or caucus counts.

Each state has different rules for how their delegates will be awarded. Some states award a proportion of delegates, based on primary or caucus votes. For example, if a state has 100 delegates and a candidate wins 60 percent of the vote, that candidate will have 60 delegates voting for them at the convention. Some states are winner-take-all, meaning that whichever candidate comes in first gets all the delegates.

For more information about the process, including where to go in your town to vote and how to register (if you are not currently a registered voter, you won’t be able to participate in Tuesday’s primary, but you have until October to register for the national election in November), visit the official website of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. And as you consider your choices and prepare to cast your ballet, don’t forget that Nevins has lots of information on candidates and issues!


Author: Kathleen

Reference Librarian and Literacy Program Coordinator. When not librarianing, I enjoy literary fiction, comedy, crafting, history, and politics.

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