What Is Super Tuesday?

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Super Tuesday is Mar. 5, in the 2024 election. The event is “a Tuesday in February or March of a presidential election year on which several states hold presidential primary elections. The specific states that participate in Super Tuesday have varied, because every U.S. state independently determines how and when it will hold primary elections.”

This election cycle, 16 states and American Samoa  will hold primary elections or caucuses: Alabama, Alaska (Republican only), Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa (Democratic only), Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. The American Samoa caucus is Democratic only. ProCon tracks the results of the primaries and caucuses.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “​​the results of Super Tuesday elections often solidify the frontrunner for each party’s presidential nomination. Election and polling experts generally view the electoral results of Super Tuesday as strong indicators of the likely U.S. presidential nominees, owing to the usual participation of large and fairly diverse voting populations.” However, winning Super Tuesday is not always a guarantee of clinching the party nomination; both Republican Bob Dole in 1996 and Democrat John Kerry in 2004 won the day’s elections but did not win enough delegates to win their party’s nominations. 

The term “Super Tuesday” was first used on May 25, 1976, when six states held primaries. Use of the term was solidified in 1984 when nine states voted on Mar. 13, to determine whether Walter Mondale or Gary Hart would go up against incumbent Ronald Reagan in the general election.

“Super Tuesday election contests are often criticized as vehicles for front-loading primaries in an effort to condense the election cycle and create unreasonable demands on presidential candidates to appeal to a wide swathe of the American electorate,” notes Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Critics have argued that the outsized delegate haul from such geographically and demographically diverse populations of American voters not only unfairly advances the campaigns of moderates or centrists but also results in media neglect of other candidates.”

1. What do you think of Super Tuesday as an election campaign tactic? Is it fair to states who vote later? Those that voted earlier? Does it give an advantage to candidates who might not otherwise win? Explain your answers.

2. If you were in charge of scheduling your state’s primary election, would you choose Super Tuesday or another date? Explain your reasoning.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Super Tuesday,” britannica.com, Mar. 4, 2024