Candidate and Delegate Selection Processes in Texas

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • Compare and contrast primary and caucus candidate and delegate selection processes


The White House
Figure 9.12 Presidential nominees are formally nominated at political party conventions. Primary elections are used to determine whom a state's delegation should support at party nominating conventions. Image credit: Cezary p CC BY-SA 4.0

This section discusses the candidate and delegate selection process in Texas.

Primary Election Systems Used in Texas

Presidential Elections

Presidential candidates in the United States are not directly nominated via primary elections; instead, presidential nominees are formally nominated at political party conventions. Presidential preference primary elections and caucuses are held in each state to determine how that state's delegation will vote during the nominating convention. The guidelines governing presidential nominating processes are set by the national committees of political parties, which in turn authorize individual state-level parties to conduct their own primaries and caucuses in accordance with their own participation standards. The terms under which presidential primaries are conducted therefore vary from state to state and from election cycle to election cycle.

In 2016, a total of 35 U.S. jurisdictions (including both states and territories) held presidential preference primaries to allocate convention delegates to both the Democratic and Republican parties' presidential candidates. In 13 jurisdictions, both parties held caucuses instead to allocate delegates. Eight jurisdictions utilized a bifurcated process in which one party held a primary and the other conducted a caucus or convention.

In 2016, Texas' political parties conducted open presidential preference primaries. Voters were not required to be a member of a party to participate in its primary.

Congressional and State-Level Elections

In 22 states, at least one political party utilizes open primaries to nominate partisan candidates for congressional and state-level (e.g. state legislators, governors, etc.) oces. In 15 states, at least one party utilizes closed primaries to nominate partisan candidates for these oces. In 14 states, at least one party utilizes semi-closed primaries. In two (California and Washington), top-two primaries are utilized.

Texas law requires parties to conduct open primary elections for state and county oces, as well as for congressional oces. During the nineteenth century, candidates were nominated at party conventions, but early in the 20th century, the state moved to the primary as a way to select candidates. Winners in primary contests are determined by majority vote. In the case that no candidate receives a majority vote, the top two candidates proceed to a runo election.


Number of Seats

Governor of Texas


Lieutenant Governor of Texas


Attorney General of Texas


Land Comptroller of Public Accounts


Texas Land Commissioner


Texas Agriculture Commissioner


Texas Railroad Commission


State Legislators


United States Senators


United States Representatives


Local Officials

Varies by municipality

Table 9.2 Elective offices for Which Parties Must Conduct Primaries to Nominate General Election Candidates .Table adapted from Ballotpedia, Primary Elections in Texas, published under a GFDL License


The Texas Caucuses

The Texas caucuses are a political event associated with primaries, the process by which voters in the Texas ultimately select their parties' nominees for various oces. The process as a whole has been referred to as the Texas Two-Step, after the partner dance of the same name, because Texans were required to first vote in the primary election in order to be eligible for participation in party caucuses in which delegates were selected.

The current process diers for Democrats and Republicans.

The Republican Party of Texas has a winner-take-all provision in its primary, and the chances any candidate will get all of that party’s Texas delegates are very small. That candidate would have to win more than 50 percent of the vote statewide, and also in each of the state’s 36 congressional districts, to run the table. Absent such an event, a pro-rata system is followed to allocate delegates roughly according to votes received.

The Texas Democratic Party no longer selects state delegates at caucuses. After the votes of Texans participating in the Democratic primary are counted, delegates are awarded among the candidates who received 15 percent or more of the vote, in proportion to the votes received by each.

It would be even harder for a Democrat than for a Republican to get all of the Texas delegates from their party in a presidential primary. A democratic candidate could do so only by winning 85% of the vote statewide and, separately, 85%  in each and every one of Texas’ 31 state Senate districts.


The Texas Democratic Party abandoned the former caucus-based "Texas Two-step" primary system in 2015.

The Democratic County (Senate District) Conventions in late March 2008 produced a great deal of confusion. Both Clinton and Obama supporters had concerns about how these conventions were conducted. The most common complaint had to do with the fact that delegates were not being apportioned based on Precinct Convention results. For instance, in Kleberg County, 9 delegates were elected to attend the State Convention, with only one Obama supporter among them. Obama won about one-third of the votes in the Precinct Caucuses/Conventions in Kleberg County.

Primaries and Caucuses American Civics US History Khan Academy


References and Further Reading

Bartels, L. (1988). Presidential Primaries and the Dynamics of Public Choice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (page 22)

Democratic National Committee, "2016 Democratic National Convention Delegate/Alternate Allocation,"

updated February 19, 2016, "Democratic National Convention Roll Call," July 26, 2016

Republican National Committee, "2016 Presidential Nominating Process” accessed October 11, 2015, "Republican National Convention roll call vote," accessed July 20, 2016

FairVote, "Who Can Vote in Congressional Primaries," accessed August 17, 2017

National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Primary Election Types," July 21, 2016

Texas Legislature, "Chapter 172. Primary Elections," accessed September 2, 2017

Nassar, George. "Texas Democratic Caucus FAQ." The Texas Blue. 03/04/2008.

"Texas Democrats dropping confusing caucus system.” Christy Hoppe. June 2015.