Presumably there are significant costs associated with the running of a primary election - printing/voting machines, staffing, rental of voting places. Reading other questions here, it is implied that these are paid for by the local government that is hosting the primary.

My question is why a state would choose to fund these elections? Do they have a choice in the matter?

  • 1
    They do? So if I start a party and decide to hold a primary election for my party, the state will fund it?
    – gerrit
    Jul 30, 2018 at 13:57
  • while not directly responsive to your question here are two very informative links [ openprimaries.org/taxpayer_costs_of_closed_primaries ] and [ ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/… ].
    – BobE
    Jul 30, 2018 at 18:25
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    Primary elections are usually paid for by the state, but states with caucus processes have the caucus usually paid for by the parties.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 30, 2018 at 23:00
  • Related but not identical. Also related.
    – Brythan
    Jul 31, 2018 at 2:19
  • Thanks @Brythan - the answer to your related question gave me enough context to feel my question has also been answered. Jul 31, 2018 at 10:51

1 Answer 1


State governments fund and run primary elections in much the same way they do the general election in the fall. Voters go to a polling place, vote, and leave. The primary election was a Progressive-era reform intended to reduce the potential for mischief in a nomination system controlled by the parties.

As BobE mentioned, this is the "mischief" which led to such reforms: https://ivn.us/2015/07/30/story-behind-pay-party-primaries/

Furthermore Bullock v. Carter in '72 solidified these reforms.

In essence, state funding became an obligation in order to circumvent issues such as requiring endless fees to lock competition out of an election. Parties were rigging elections through financial burdens.

Disclaimer: Certainly I am neither endorsing the necessity of this system nor am I claiming it is the only way to defend against rigging via finances. Simply put, this explains why states became the source of funding.

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