What Are the Different Types of Elections?

There are three basic types of elections in the United States: primary, general and special. Elections are held on the federal level to elect the president and Congressional leaders while state and local elections are used to elect governors, state legislators and local office holders.

Primary elections are used to narrow the number of candidates down to just the party leaders. Primaries are sometimes referred to as “nominating primary” elections, and the winners of a primary election move on to the next election round, which is the general election. General elections are held on the Tuesday that follows the first Monday in November. General elections are only held in even-numbered years

Special elections are sometimes required when an elected official dies, resigns or is removed from an office. Special elections may also be held to address a special issue that arises that is seen as too urgent to wait for the next general election.

With the exception of North Dakota, all states require that voters be registered to vote. Voters can vote in person at a local polling place, or voters can cast their votes by mailing in an absentee ballot or returning an absentee ballot if unable to make it to the polling place on election day.